Reviews

JAZZTIMES MAGAZINE – TURN UP THE QUIET (Whaling City Sound)
John Stein & Ron Gill

By Christopher Loudon

CD Cover 2010-07-25 16-54-44Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane; Nat King Cole and George Shearing; Anita O’Day and Cal Tjader: land mark pairings that represent the summit of singer-accompanist simpatico . . . Now, singer (and radio host) Ron Gill and guitar virtuoso John Stein must be added to that elite circle . . . Stein and Gill’s Turn Up The Quiet is an exceptional exercise in hushed, reverential craftsmanship.

Gill’s vocal style strongly suggests the latter-career Mel Tormé, with near-equally intense echoes of Jackie Paris and Tony Bennett. In other words, a master fully evocative instrument, used to stellar advantage across 16 refined ballads. As with the Hartman/Coltrane and Cole/Shearing sessions, the beauty of the album is derived from palpably sumptuous intimacy. With able assistance from pianist Gilad Barkan, Stein delicately embroiders the edges of Gill’s gentle musings on hope, desire and love — requited and otherwise.

The playlist is every bit as intriguing as the performances, including two charming Bart Howard rarities, a clever combination of Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic” and “Too Shy to Say,” Leo Robin and Nicholas Brodszky’s obscure “My Flaming Heart,” and one utterly beautiful Stein/Gill original, “Our Love Will See Us Through.”

JAZZREVIEW.COM – THE SONGS OF BILLY STRAYHORN (WGBH Radio)

Musicians: Ron Gill (vocals), Manny Williams (piano), Reid Jorgensen (drums), Ron Mahdi (bass), Bill Thompson (sax, & flute), John Stein (guitar)

rg_strayhorncvrRon Gill is a young vocalist out of the Boston area. For the past twenty years, it has been a dream of Ron’s to record the music of one of the most important songwriters of the 20th Century, Billy Strayhorn. The wait was well worth it, as is evidenced by the lovely interpretations on this recording. With the recent passing of Joe Williams and Mel Tormé, it is up to vocalists like Ron to carry the torch into the next millennium.

“Greivin” kicks off this set with an inspired reading from Ron. Pianist Manny Williams and drummer Reid Jorgensen begin with a light intro before Ron states his case with some fine phrasing. Always remaining in control, and offering the listener a hint of misery with a tongue firmly in cheek. Reminds me of the way that Jimmy Rushing sang with the great Count Basie band.

The perennial favorite, “Lush Life” begins with a wonderful intro by saxophonist Bill Thompson. Ron settles in with the lyric borrowing from Tony Bennett’s way of phrasing yet remaining Ron’s all the way. Sultry with poignant thought’s from Ron capturing the meaning of this song from beginning to end. Never over emphasizing, and always remaining true to Billy’s words, this is the most personal and touching version I have ever heard.

“Lotus Blossom” achieves the same effect, and really puts the listener in a relaxed but always attentive mood. Pianist Manny Williams is to Ron, like Ralph Sharon is to Tony Bennett. Sympathetic, always offering Ron beautiful chords and runs to build on. Manny offers us a solo rendition worthy of many listens.

Bassist Ron Mahdi comps behind Ron’s lyric on “Satin Doll”, understating the melody to maximum effect, before swinging into the song.

“My Little Brown Book” highlights the way that Ron can sing a ballad. Taking his time in order to build the mood in a most seamless way. Again pianist Manny Williams offers us a warm, light, and yes inspiring accompaniment.

Guitarist, John Stein offers us his usual great taste in playing. Throughout the CD John is always there adding colors to each piece that are both appealing and very musical.

From beginning to end Ron not only offers us versions of Billy Strayhorn’s writing, but rather timeless renditions that will inspire other up and coming vocalists, and musicians alike on how to project, phrase, and have fun doing it at the same time. For anyone wanting to hear what Strayhorn was all about, I would highly recommend this recording. Ron has a bright future ahead of him. With all of the Jazz festivals taking place this year, if you have a chance to see and hear Ron, you will not be disappointed.

MODERN GUITARIST – TURN UP THE QUIET
By Don Mather

A few months ago I had the pleasure of hearing a previous album, called ‘Raising the Roof’ which featured jazz guitarist John Stein and his Quartet, which was released on the same label. I was greatly impressed, here is a musician of great ability, taste, with a real jazz feel about everything that he plays. This time he is paired with Ron Gill, again someone I was not aware of, but who is a master of the art of the jazz vocal. He is in the same league as the very best of the great interpreters of song, he makes each tune his own, but without altering it to such an extent that you can’t recognise it. This is quality vocalising.

The empathy between the two artists shines through very clearly, John proves to be a very able accompanist, whether on guitar or playing bass with the piano of Gilad Barkan, who is also outstanding in the backing role.

The choice of tunes is eclectic; they are drawn from many sources and include an original from Stein, with words by Gill called ‘Our Love Will see us Through. It is extremely well crafted in both departments. The tunes vary from the very well known to the obscure, from Ellington to Victor Young; there are three of his songs here, to Stevie Wonder and Leslie Bricusse. All tempos and styles are included and it is difficult to say that one track is better than another, I liked them all. Perhaps Ellington’s ‘Sentimental Mood’ grabbed me most on this hearing, but it was ‘When I Fall in Love’ the previous time and I feel sure that next time it will be something else!

The planning research and rehearsal that went into a session like this is what makes for such an interesting programme and everyone should be congratulated, including the label for producing such an interesting release

This is one of the most pleasant vocal albums I have had for review in a long time. All I can say is “Turn Up” ‘Turn Up the Quiet’ please! It’s my sort of music!

Guitar International (online) and Just Jazz Guitar Magazine
By Dr. Matt Warnock

Turn Up the Quiet is a highly entertaining and musically compelling album by the Boston duo of guitarist John Stein and vocalist Ron Gill. Joined on several tracks by pianist Gilad Barkan, as well as featuring Stein on acoustic bass for a few numbers, this duo-trio lays down sophisticated jazz that appeals to the intellectual jazz listener and casual jazz fan alike. Preferring to rely on subtlety and developing an emotional connection with the listener, rather than showcasing their chops or advanced harmonic knowledge, these two talented musicians come together to prove once again that, in the right hands, the guitar and vocal duo is one of the most entertaining and engaging line-ups in jazz.

The tunes on the album are a mix of classic jazz standards, such as the often played yet never tiring “In a Sentimental Mood” and “My Foolish Heart,” accompanied by rarely played gems such as “Be My All” and “Love Dance.” There is also a grooving version of “Gentle Rain,” taken at the slower, more traditional Bossa tempo, and a medley of two often overlooked Stevie Wonder tunes “If it’s Magic” and “I’ll be Easy to Find.” The diverse material included on the record is indicative of the wide range of influences and musical tastes that both Stein and Gill possess.

One of the biggest challenges when recording a guitar-vocal duo is keeping the listener’s attention throughout the full length of the album. By including songs from different eras, genres and from both famous and lesser known composers, Stein and Gill keep the listener guessing as to what’s coming next. What groove will be around the corner? What fresh interpretation will they give each standard tune? This deep level of interest not only keeps the record from becoming monotonous, it will keep listener’s coming back for more as they discover new nuances, twists and turns with each new listen. An accomplishment that is difficult in a full band setting, let alone with a vocal-guitar duo.

While many guitarists would shy away from taking on a vocal duo project such as this, or would struggle to maintain the listener’s interest throughout a whole record of mostly solo improvisations and accompaniment, Stein takes these challenges head on and delivers a solid performance as both a soloist and comper. Ditching the idea that a guitarist needs to cover every aspect of the ensemble, bass-drums-harmony-melody, in a duo situation, Stein prefers to weave his way through a variety of harmonic and melodic textures with his playing.

Not afraid to lay down single-line ideas, or to comp sparingly for himself, during his unaccompanied solos, this talented guitarist proves that one doesn’t need to fill every bar with long streams of notes, or to clutter things up by trying to walk and comp, or to comp and blow at the same time, in order to engage the audience on a musical and personal level. If there was ever a jazz guitarist who took the saying “Less is more” to heart, and used that philosophy to create intellectually engaging and enjoyable music, it’s John Stein.

There is something for every jazz fan, both veterans and newbies alike, on Turn Up the Quiet. Guitarists will enjoy listening to Stein tackle a chord-melody intro, or tear into a bluesy single-line solo, while fans of any genre of music can put the disc on, sit back and let this duo take them on a relaxing, enjoyable musical journey. What else could one ask for in a jazz duo album?

LimeWire Store
By Jim Allen

John Stein is a veteran jazz guitarist with a sophisticated harmonic palette and a smooth, supple technique, so it might initially strike some as odd that he doesn’t play guitar on half of his Turn Up the Quiet album. That is, until you learn that Stein is also a dab hand at the upright bass, and he swaps six strings for four on some of these tunes. Pianist Gilad Barkan enters the fray on the tracks where Stein switches over to bass, but Stein’s partner throughout is singer Ron Gill. Gill is possessed of a smoky voice and a sensitive delivery, enabling him to interact effectively with Stein in this extremely intimate setting. On both the trio and duo cuts, Gill comes off like a younger Tony Bennett, wringing the maximum amount of emotion from his thoughtful phrasing. Over the course of the album, Stein and his cohorts tackle ubiquitous jazz standards like “My Foolish Heart” and “In a Sentimental Mood” as well as lesser-known tunes, managing to make them all feel equally fresh. Stein shows himself to be a top-notch bassist, finding just the right spaces to fit in around Barkan’s piano, but of course, his guitar work steals the show. Even though he’s all about understatement, pulling out poignant lines and complex, Joe Pass-like chordal journeys, Stein simply can’t help but impress.

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Ron Gill is a young vocalist out of the Boston area. For the past twenty years, it has been a dream of Ron’s to record the music of one of the most important songwriters of the 20th Century, Billy Strayhorn. The wait was well worth it, as is evidenced by the lovely interpretations on this recording. With the recent passing of Joe Williams and Mel Tormé, it is up to vocalists like Ron to carry the torch into the next millennium.

“Greivin” kicks off this set with an inspired reading from Ron. Pianist Manny Williams and drummer Reid Jorgensen begin with a light intro before Ron states his case with some fine phrasing. Always remaining in control, and offering the listener a hint of misery with a tongue firmly in cheek. Reminds me of the way that Jimmy Rushing sang with the great Count Basie band.

The perennial favorite, “Lush Life” begins with a wonderful intro by saxophonist Bill Thompson. Ron settles in with the lyric borrowing from Tony Bennett’s way of phrasing yet remaining Ron’s all the way. Sultry with poignant thought’s from Ron capturing the meaning of this song from beginning to end. Never over emphasizing, and always remaining true to Billy’s words, this is the most personal and touching version I have ever heard.

“Lotus Blossom” achieves the same effect, and really puts the listener in a relaxed but always attentive mood. Pianist Manny Williams is to Ron, like Ralph Sharon is to Tony Bennett. Sympathetic, always offering Ron beautiful chords and runs to build on. Manny offers us a solo rendition worthy of many listens.

Bassist Ron Mahdi comps behind Ron’s lyric on “Satin Doll”, understating the melody to maximum effect, before swinging into the song.

“My Little Brown Book” highlights the way that Ron can sing a ballad. Taking his time in order to build the mood in a most seamless way. Again pianist Manny Williams offers us a warm, light, and yes inspiring accompaniment.

Guitarist, John Stein offers us his usual great taste in playing. Throughout the CD John is always there adding colors to each piece that are both appealing and very musical.

From beginning to end Ron not only offers us versions of Billy Strayhorn’s writing, but rather timeless renditions that will inspire other up and coming vocalists, and musicians alike on how to project, phrase, and have fun doing it at the same time. For anyone wanting to hear what Strayhorn was all about, I would highly recommend this recording. Ron has a bright future ahead of him. With all of the Jazz festivals taking place this year, if you have a chance to see and hear Ron, you will not be disappointed.

EXPERIENCED – BY JON GARELICK
Issue Date: September 30 – October 6, 2005

Ron Gill’s “Duke & Strays”

Audiences for veteran Boston singer Ron Gill know what to expect: a jazz musician with a warm, supple, light baritone and sure rhythmic control, whose literate approach to a song guarantees that you’ll hear every word and that those words will mean something. AtScullers a week ago Wednesday, Gill, with his long-time accompanists the Manny Williams Trio and guitarist John Stein, presented “Duke & Strays,” an Ellington-and-Strayhorn program that’s a follow-up to Gill’s 1997 The Songs of Billy Strayhorn (WGBH).

It’s not that every lyric set to a Ellington or Strayhorn tune is profound. The set opener, “Duke’s Place,” is just a trifling lyric set after the fact to Ellington’s “C Jam Blues,” but Gill swung it as the perfect mood setter: “Take your tootsies into Duke’s Place/Love that piano sound in Duke’s place!” When he shouted the lyric “Hey waiter!” and pointed into the crowd, he could have been ordering a drink. And he established his authority for the more somber, melancholy, or even bitter songs that followed, with their subtle internal rhymes. In “Something To Live For,” he sang, “Someone to make my life gay/As they say it ought to be.” In “It Shouldn’t Happen to aDream,” it was “The bubble will break/And then I’ll wake up.” The latter also showed how hard Gill and the band could swing at a slow tempo. Those who know Gill as a jazz announcer on WGBH 89.7 FM or as a tireless activist on the jazz scene also know him for his sanguine charm, and his two-hour show was propelled not only by his introductions but by his good-natured squabbling with Stein. But Gill, Stein, Williams, tenor-saxophonist Philippe Crettien, bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa, and drummer Reid Jorgensen weren’t fooling around. In “I Want To Make You Mine,” Gill sang, “Let me live for a while/Won’t you give me just a smile,” beginning the line as confident come-on and delivering the last word as a poignant whisper.

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