Bassist Jason Stewart, a native New Orleanian who studied at NOCCA, Tulane University and New York’s Julliard School of Music, has long contributed to this city’s modern jazz scene. He’s gained a reputation as a solid, laid-back player who is always up to the task and is presently a member of the Ellis Marsalis Quartet.
On Cyclicality, Stewart reveals his talents as a composer and leader. The bassist contributes five excellent tunes to the CD and brings in compatible musicians with whom he’s performed and/or gone to school during his career. They include drummer Adonis Rose, reedmen Derek Douget and John Ellis and alternating pianists Ellis Marsalis or Donald Vega. Vega, a native of Nicaragua who also attended Juilliard and is making a name in national jazz circles, is the wild card of the bunch. His vibrancy practically steals the show. However, the pianist is up against some pretty heavy hitters. Douget on either soprano or tenor sax and Ellis on either tenor sax or bass clarinet are often teamed together though they also go on the attack individually. Rose’s spirited drums match up particularly well with the intricacy of Vega’s piano style.
For the most part, Stewart’s bass remains the backbone of the group. He does step out for solos on his fine composition, “Ebb and Flow (or Losing Ground)” and a trio selection with Marsalis on the standard “Canadian Sunset.” Stewart shines brightly as a composer penning the title cut and his tribute to his teacher, trumpeter Clyde Kerr Jr., on the pleasantly melodic and rhythmic “Song for Clyde.”
It is Stewart’s pulse that solidifies Vega’s contribution, the album’s stunning closer, “Wailing Jane.” Everybody’s steamin’ as if the lid has been taken off a pressure cooker.