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Friday, Oct. 20, 2006



Annie Sellick and Grant Stewart Quartet

Saxophonist Grant Stewart and vocalist Annie Sellick bring their contemporary jazz to Japan for a tour that starts tonight (Oct. 20) -- and their straight-up, no-frills sounds dig into tradition with fresh feeling. Last year's "Grant Stewart +4" was a sparkling piece of contemporary jazz, but Stewart's most recent album, "Estate," is his most melodic work to date. Doubling up on tenor sax with Eric Alexander, he creates a full, rich sound that swings hard. Like Alexander, he has helped re-energize tenor sax playing in the jazz world with a distinctive, individual voice.

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Stewart plays with New York's finest musicians, and he is bringing along three of them for the tour. In particular, pianist David Hazeltine, whose style (on more than a dozen releases in the past decade) has elicited comparisons to Oscar Peterson, will be manning the keyboard. Hard-working bop like this -- with sharp sophistication and soloists who have something to say -- is just made for cozy, intimate clubs.

Stewart's sax style matches Sellick's voice well: Both have an honest approach and an abundance of youthful energy. Not many jazz singers admit to hailing from Nashville, the home of country music, but Sellick does. When singing, she tells stories with phrasing that touches on rock, country and blues, and unlike a lot of over-hyped pop singers billed as jazz divas, Sellick can really sing. Her latest album, "A Piece of Heaven," recorded live, finds her improvising over many kinds of rhythms and delivering crowd-pleasing standards with unaffected assertion.

Annie Sellick and Grant Stewart Quartet, with David Hazeltine (piano), Gerald Cannon (bass) and Quincy Davis (drums) play Oct. 20, Tokyo's JZ Brat; Oct. 21, Shizuoka Lifetime Club; Oct. 22, Gifu, Mamo; Oct. 24, Nagoya Star Eyes; Oct. 25, Osaka's Mr. Kelly; Oct. 26, Tokyo TUC. For more information, call (03) 3470-0427.

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