Basement Blues is the third Origin Records CD offering from the John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet, following Shot Through With Beauty (2009) and Live Beauty, (2013). Guitarist Stowell's approach is distinctive - silvery chords and pinprick single notes that reverberate from the rafters. Saxophonist Zilber is a flawless, soulful technician on soprano and tenor saxophones. Bassist John Shifflett and drummer Jason Lewis are perfection in the supportive rhythm rolls. It all comes together in a cohesive set that is probing and cerebral and laid-back approachable.
The set features two classics: Jerome Kern's "Nobody Else but Me" and the closer, pianist Bill Evans' "Very Early." All other tunes are originals from the pens of Stowell or Zilber, with one group-written composition, "Later that Night," that - with such a groove - doesn't sound like a free improvisation, though it may well be.
The disc's title tune, written by Zilber, opens the set on a reflective note. Zilber is exquisite on soprano horn, and he adds some almost subliminal piano to the rhythm, a subtle and beautiful sparkle behind Stowell's piquant solo. Jerome Kern's "Nobody Else But Me" is given a playful turn, and "Stowell In Heart," from Zilber's pen, is introspective, wandering, lovely, a somewhat amorphous type of tune that could be mistaken for a Wayne Shorter composition. Stowell's "Violin Memory" features Zilber putting out a robust and gritty sound on tenor sax to contrast with Stowell's effortless grace.
With three disc's now to their credit, the John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet has crafted a group sound as individualistic, and as modernistic and compelling, as any out there.