Picks and Pans Review: Telepathy
Once a precocious sideman to John Scofield and Joe Lovano, this 30-year-old Iowa-born New Yorker is one of the best young drummers in jazz. Stewart plays with a rolling, limber suppleness; no matter how complex his rhythms get, they stay buoyant. Few drummers compose, but Stewart writes almost every piece he records: squiggly little melodies, off-hand but catchy.
On Telepathy the music is knotty, muscular and unpredictable. "Happy Chickens" is wryly down-home; honking over Stewart's intricate but danceable beat, saxophonists Steve Wilson and Seamus Blake sound like avant-funk renegades from James Brown. On Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning" and Jackie McLean's "Little Melonae," Stewart & Co. gleefully subvert the classics, turning them into brand-new adventures.
Stewart's music makes demands but repays listeners amply, letting them share the exhilaration of world-class improvisers who pull happy surprises from thin air. When it works, this is forward-looking '90s jazz at its best: five skillful players who treat structure as a launching pad, not a prison; who stay in sync through sheer mutual receptivity—that's right, telepathy. (Blue Note)