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stew cutlerNew York City guitarist Stew Cutler‘s sixth album Every Sunday Night is a long-steeped brew of soul, jazz, and blues-rock including several tracks with vocals by local soul man Bobby Harden. Harden’s presence is likely to make any recording worth a listen (or any gig worth the cover charge). But the opening track, “The Grind,” is one of several instrumental originals on the album, and it sets a powerful smoky tone all its own, thanks partly to smooth organ playing from its co-writer Nick Semrad.

Drummer Bill McClellan charges the otherwise jazzy and easygoing original “Gumbo Trane” with a gentle funk-rock fizz, but the track’s main appeal lies in Cutler’s inspired soloing. Julian Pollack lays down a tasty stuttering organ solo, and contributes to a fun rhythm rave-up in this Trane’s caboose.

Harden joins the band first on the dark, prickly “Before I Go,” a blues number that sounds a bit as if Otis Redding had joined forces with Son Seals. Harden then channels the roots of gospel in the Allman Brothers’ “Not My Cross to Bear,” which centers on an otherworldly solo from Cutler. The guitarist is equally inspired on the instrumental original “Brookline” with its straightforward melody and occasional tongue-in-cheek rhythmic surprise. Among its other virtues, this album is a lot of fun, no doubt in part because it was recorded almost-live.

There isn’t much to the gospel-rooted blues-rock of “TV Preacher,” and the band’s super-slow take on the Sam and Dave classic “When Something is Wrong with My Baby” feels at first like it might be running on empty. But once the voices of Harden and guest JT Bowen join in harmony the track takes flight. Bowen takes a verse, Cutler contributes a deliciously languid solo, and the two singers’ differing styles – Harden sweet and impassioned, Bowen rough and raw – turn the soul nugget into a new animal, almost painfully laden with emotional depth.

The concise album closes with a charming ’60s-style instrumental with a light Dave Brubeck-type touch – though like everything Cutler and his band take up here, it evolves into a masterwork of rhythm and improvisation – followed by a smoking guitar-solo excerpt from an actual live performance, presumably one of the band’s sets at Arthur’s Tavern. The latter isn’t necessary; the album tracks are more than enough of a treat to make you want to catch Stew Cutler & Friends in action. Meantime, pick up Every Sunday Night for the good vibes, good times, and musicianship that’s fluid and sharp, expert and humane. It will be available beginning September 15.

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Stew Cutler And Friends review…July 1, 2017….



COGNA 70070-28026-2


Guitarist Stew Cutler has never been one to limit his music to any particular style or genre’.  That’s one of the reasons his “Every Sunday Night” gigs at Arthur’s Tavern in NYC’s Greenwich Village are so popular.  And, yup, that’s also the title of his latest album.  It was not recorded at Arthur’s, but Stew and his band ventured to Queens to the Psych Studio, and most everything was laid down in one take.

Stew’s guitar takes on many variations throughout these nine cuts, showing why he’s been right at home playing with everyone from Bowie to Arzell Hill to countless others.  This set is almost an equal mix of instrumentals and vocal tracks, and there are highlights aplenty.  Leading off is one of those instrumentals that is really blues-oriented and full of greasy-good slide guitar, Stew’s original, The Grind.”

Along with Stew on guitars, we also have Bill McLellan on drums, Bobby Harden and JT Bowen on vocals,  Nick Semrad and Julian Pollack on keys, and Chulo Gatewood on bass.  Stew shows off some more serious jazz chops with a funky tune that is the aptly-titled “Gumbo Trane,” with fine percussion work from Bill, and keys from Julian.

Three of the vocals stood out for us.  Bobby Harden brings the soul while Stew’s guitar does its share of testifyin’ on a great read of Gregg Allman’s “Not My Cross To Bear.”  A bit later, Bobby plays the part of the perfect con man, asking for “an hour on Channel 35” to be a “TV Preacher,” so that he can get away from “nothin’ in my pockets but poor.”  Perhaps the album’s highlight, tho, is a blistering, soul-satisfying vocal duet between Bobby and JT Bowen, as they take us all down to East McLemore to the Church Of Stax with a sanctified throwdown of “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.”  Stew’s guitar hits just the right notes at just the right times on this one, too.

Stew Cutler’s vision for this album was to re-create the vibe at Arthur’s Tavern in the studio, and it came out perfectly.  So, if you can’t make it “Every Sunday Night” to Arthur’s, thanks to this set, you can effectively capture the good-time vibe!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Riveting Riffs review by Joe Montague;

"Cutler’s latest release, After Hours, perfectly navigates that land between jazz and blues that puts it firmly in both camps."

- John Heidt

STEW CUTLER TRIO - Insignia (Naim 058) I feel proud to have helped bring this superb cd to light - by introducing the wonderful jazz/blues guitarist Stew Cutler to a doctor friend of mine (Alan Eiges) to play a party, he in turn told a producer friend of his (Ken Christianson) about Stew's fine trio and was instrumental in getting the trio to record for the much respected UK label - Naim. Stew's superb trio includes Booker King on bass and Garry Bruer on drums. Ken recorded this marvelous trio in a church in Hinsdale, IL. and the sound is just perfect. Commencing with the beautiful, laid back elegance of "Whisper" - Stew has a superb, warm tone not too different from the lovely sound that Bill Frisell uses in recent years. The first solo is actually a swell one from bassist Booker King - Stew's solo is next and it is the essense of taste, balancing jazz and blues lines with a purity that shines. "QT" also shifts between a funky, blues section (Zony Mash-like) and a complex, spiraling section with intricate changes. I dig how the bass sets the tone on "Lovely Mary" another exquisite, bluesy, laid back gem which starts with a dream sequence and then turns into a Latin groove thing. On "Left Behind" Stew starts with some nice volume swirls, but soon the drummer is spinning quickly while Stew adds some hypnotic sustain-tone to his guitar and the trio takes off for the stratosphere as the pace gets quicker and Booker plays another inspired electric bass solo. Stew digs in and lets the blues wail with a slow burn groove on "East River Delta" with some subtle yet greasy slide and some finger twisting grit. Another great thing about this release is the way Stew's tunes are filled with nifty surprises - they often start one way, yet change midstream and become something else, but it all evolves so naturally. "Saudades on 8th Ave." has a great finger snapping latin groove and more tasty solos from the guitar and bass. "Elizabeth" has an enchanting, laid back and funky groove which shifts between the slow grease and swinging jazz vibe with a long, story-like solo from Stew right out of Wes Montgomery-land. Stew takes things further out on "Left Alone" where he uses some spaced out echoes on the guitar for the intro and then glides with bluesy echoed slide for the rest of the tune - the song does have a lonely feel, so the title is pretty apt. The title track "Insignia" is the longest one here and begins with a blues-drenched stop and start rhythm and builds from hushed waves and warm, gracious jazz guitar slowly letting those notes get fatter as his tone gets thicker - the drummer and bassist both take fine melodic solos which continues the flow just right - Stew also takes another fine, ultra subtle guitar solo with delicate volume pedal or pinky action that has an endearing dream-like haze. If any of you have been disappointed in the last few Bill Frisell cds for being too mellow, I urge you to give the Stew Cutler Trio a chance - an immensely sublime and superb jazz/blues guitar trio treat! $15.

Guitarist Stew Cutler gets all of his stuff out in one live recording. Trio/Live is betwixt and between jazz and avant-garde, blues and soul, rhythm & blues. Along with drummer Garry Bruer and bassist Gene Torress, the trio consumes ten compositions and throws them back as a pile of smoldering ash.

The trio begins this 2004 session, recorded at different spaces in Pennsylvania and New York, with “Left Behind.” Cutler sends a thin, whiny line that elasticizes through the air. It’s a warm-up and a shake- up as Bruer furiously beats time and Cutlter deftly picks at notes. The thuddy bass notes of Torres gallops up to his tinny, buzzy solo in the slowed-down section at the end.

“Mourning Dance” plays out the kind of wrung-out and dispirited feelings one gets but is too tired to rise up and do anything about. There is no resolution in sight for this type of blues! The time is free and dangles where Cutler’s fingers wag. “Mourning Dance” is one big cadenza, and that is challenging in that each man is relying on his ears, eyes and gut to communicate these emotions.

Cutler hits the ruddy earth with “East River Delta”. It’s thick with changing speeds and times and swirls with eastern inflections. This piece exemplifies Cutler’s brand of “avant-blues”, employing irregular shifts in tempo and atmosphere. “Ardells Theme” gets funky and Cutlter leaves no lick unturned. Is that a putdown? Absolutely not. It’sa treat to listen to an artist tipping his hat to his influences and, in Cutler’s case, to his employers and bandmates – like vocalist Arziel “Z.Z.” Hill and guitarists Wilson Pickett, Eliot Sharp and Jimmy Dale Gilmore.

“Cole’s Mountain” sounds like a contemporary blues-rock anthem that speaks to a generation trapped by the manufactured angst of today’s Adult Contemporary and Rock groups and their longing for radio staples by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. Cutler slides in with a six-note riff that is the skeleton of the piece. By the fourth and seventh measure, Bruer and Torres have jammed their feet in the door. All three play it close to each bar and never slip out of the slick groove they’ve created.

Cutler brings about some Southern hospitality and twang on “Yippie- tai-yi-yo”. Performed comfortably in 3⁄4 time, Cutler coos as Torres shuffles his brushes like a pair of well-worn boots along a dirt wood- board floor. Both Cutler and Bruer take liberties with the tempo as they ease each time into the tonic (the C chord) from the V7 (the G7 chord). This gives “Yippie-tai-yi-yo” authentic charm. Cutler cuts out with “Cut ‘n’ The Dove”, a free solo work that partially relies on electronic effects to create stillness and a bit of introspection.

Folks like Cutler are fortunate to partner with record labels that nurture artistic growth, musical integrity and are willing to shout from the rooftops their dedication and faith to the music. Cutler’s with New York-based Fountainbleu, a label that 1) shares his passion for roots music and 2) is in close proximity to him (he lives in New York.) Trio/Live is a slim but satiable guide through parts of Americana and one looks forward to more extended works from the trio. When one puts their finger firmly down on one destination on a map, they, in actuality, will go nowhere. Cutler travels freely around the musical globe and seems to find his way around with no problems.

 This is an interesting recording encompassing a wide range of styles, and reflects the background of guitarist Stew Cutler - who started out as a young player working with blues great ZZ Hill, and has since worked with an eclectic group of artists like Bill Frisell, Wilson Pickett, David Sanborn, Harvey Brooks, Lester Bowie, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Bobby Previte, Percy Sledge, Eliot Sharp and Jimmy Dale Gilmore. Recorded live with drummer Garry Bruer and bassist Gene Torres (who also engineered), this recording moves from blues to avant garde to rock fusion and world music in compelling fashion.

Cutler doesn't rely on effects as much as many of his peers and his energtic riffing at times recalls McLaughlin and Scofield. The opener "Left Behind" even calls up a bit of the spirit of Jimi on it's enjoyable ride. "Mourning Dance" slows it down a bit after the adventurous opener and the beginning shows Cutler to be equally adept at playing a down home blues that wouldn't seem out place on a David Bromburg album before the piece mutates a bit into a Frisell-like atmosphere. This is some quirky stuff - as the next number "Spaghetti Western" reminds us: here the blues and free form collide. Bruer provides solid drumming and Torres shows a deft touch on the lower register as well.

"East River Delta" starts out like an Allman Brothers tune with some hot slide playing then mutates into an Indian raga complete with Cutler's guitar morphing into a sitar. "Ardells Theme" features Torres' on some spicy bass licks, and is more a funky rocker, while "Whisper" is a quiet and delightful light piece that lives up to its name quite well. The wonderful "Cole's Mountain" may be my favorite - a folksy number in the Frisell vein, with a strong theme that canters between the melancholic and the melodic. Some real fine playing on this tune. "Yppie-Tai-Yi-Yo" follows and is a pleasnt lark, while the lengthy "Burma/Change of Heart" has some good moments, but not enough to support 14:36, and the album closer "Cut 'n' the Dove" is moody and mysterious and has its charms, but somewhat leaves you hanging, wanting more of the firepower Cutler displays earlier. As an intriguing mix of blues, jazz, rock and the kitchen sink displaying some seductively off-center guitar playing Stew Cutler's "Trio Live" should appeal to listeners who enjoy such outings.