Coast to Coast

Recorded after a brutal Canadian winter tour, Stefan Bauer’s “Coast to Coast” is a fresh (not frozen) addition to the IGMOD catalog and to the jazz world at large.

When first listening to a jazz vibraphonist, one cannot help drawing mental comparisons to the modern vibes master Gary Burton. Upon further listening to Bauer, one begins to realize that although Bauer draws on some of the modern innovations made popular by Burton, he steps away from them and into a sound and creative direction of his own. Backed by an “all star” Canadian rhythm section, Stefan Bauer runs his band through a variety of styles without becoming too eclectic.

The group eases the listener into the album with “Flaneur,” a light medium swing tune in which the rhythm section nimbly shifts among 3 and 4 beats to the bar while constantly maintaining their supportive role underneath the lyrical melody and the soloists.

Trumpeter Kenny Wheeler joins the core quartet for six of the twelve pieces, drawing out additional levels of interaction and support from the rest of the group. Most notable of the pieces with Wheeler is the Latin tinged “Circus Balouni,” not so much for Wheeler’s performance (although he does sound great) but for the sense of adventure and energy the group brings to the tune. Bauer’s arrangement provides nice ensemble figures underneath sections of the solos but also leaves plenty of room for group interaction.

The classic “I Hear A Rhapsody” features bassist Jim Vivian on the intro and extremely melodic and reactive playing from Barry Romberg on drums while “trading” with the other players. The sonic quality of this recording is near flawless. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the vibes/horn duet “Lover Man” and the ballad “Long Shadows.” Featuring a vibra-phone intro on the latter, Bauer covers the full spectrum of the instrument and both ends of his mallets! By itself, the harmonics and nuances of the instrument are translated perfectly, giving one the impression of sitting directly in front of Bauer.

Vibraphonists are quite rare in today’s jazz world but good ones are even more scarce. “Coast to Coast” is a gem of an album from an exceptional talent. Not only a unique voice on his instrument but with a unique compositional and arranging style as well. This recording is a “must have,” especially for audiophiles!
MinneapolisReview by Joel Richman

With “Coast To Coast”, vibist Stephan (sic) Bauer delivers a cool, impressive set with
a bold assemblage of Canadians the formidable pianist Bernie Senensky, bassist Jim Vivian, drummer Barry Romberg, and most notably the Toronto-bred and now London-based trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. Together, they share an empathetic bond on music that is both cerebral and sensuous. Bauer is a player of no uncertain gifts, strong in the technique and introspective feeling, whose instincts suggest a Euro- Canadian jazz connection. Except for versions of “I Hear A Rhapsody” and “Lover Man”, the tunes are Bauer’s and seem to carry trace influences of Gary Burton’s deceptively sophisticated harmonic sensibilities melodies and chords are amiable but lean left when you might not expect it. Wheeler’s presence is a poetic boon to the session, as the great trumpeter exerts his trademark admix of vulnerability and bravura. Hot, thoughtful sounds from the North.


Quite polished in their approach to contemporary jazz, vibist Stefan Bauer/fluegelhornist
Kenny Wheeler, pianist Bernie Senensky, acoustic bassist Jim Vivian and drummer Barry
Rothberg(sic) engage ten originals and two standards in this reexamination of textural techniques first advanced in the 1970′s when fusion was all the rage. Everything is well-plotted, highly ordered, and rubber gloved, as the intellectually conceived style demands, but to fully exploit the harmonic and structural challenges of the individual compositions and arrangements, there are also many opportunities for creative solo work by Bauer, Wheeler and Senensky.

Would that other survivors of the 1970′s had also developed similar abilities in the area of swing, as here demonstrated on Bauer’s title tune, an up-tempo burner that features both vibes and piano, the Latinized “Corner Store Events,” the swinging “I Hear A Rhapsody,” and the way-up “Bizarre.” Both Wheeler and Senensky have been in the forefront for many years, but Bauer is relatively new and bears close watching for further developments. Like Senensky’s Evans-informed touch and voicings, the sound of Bauer’s vibes is an equally pleasing listening experience, and one that just might lead some newer listeners back to the sources.

— JACK SOHMER JazzTimes Review: June 1997

As jazz has evolved into a music of the world (as opposed to “world music”), voraciously absorbing sonic influences as they become recognized, it becomes apparent that many of the more proficient and innovative artists reside beyond American borders. While many of the Young Lions are rediscovering their roots, the other side of the spectrum is searching for continuation of new advances in jazz, just as bebop revolutionized it in the 1940′s and the avant garde did the same in the 1950s.

The search for previously unknown talent may be complex and challenging, but
nevertheless it becomes rewarding when you realize the ripple and return effects of recorded jazz.

One such citizen of the world born in Germany, residing in Canada, and schooled in
Germany, at Berklee and in New York is contributing a distinctive voice to an art form that has branched intricately and widely from its New Orleans roots.

On his third album, we find that Stefan Bauer is a fine composer as well as a compelling voice on the vibraharp. In fact, ten of the twelve tunes on Coast To Coast are originals that were supported by the Manitoba Arts Council in Winnipeg, where the album was recorded.

Instead of a Hampton swing or a Jackson bebop, Bauer offers us darker colors backed by a freed-up rhythm section that more often than not establishes a mood or an atmosphere as well as a pulse. Many of the tunes are written in minor keys with unexpected modulations even when the songs are as familiar as I Hear A Rhapsody. Indeed, the compositional nature of the rhythms and the unconventional chord patterns the multiple changes of moods within a single piece suggest an impressionistic classical sensibility.

“Unexpected” may be a good way to describe the music on the album because the
compositions, possessing their own internal logic, sometimes consisting of multiple metrical changes, as in Flaneur. Invariably, each song pushes ahead and halts with sudden pauses and dramatic accents, perhaps sud-denly interrupting a groove, while the plaintive melodies wind through a statement that unfolds in the context of the entire number.

Bauer makes use of the full range of the instrument, comping four-mallet block chords
when appropriate on Lover Man or scampering with a bright rapid-fire riff on Coast to Coast or sustaining a slow contemplative reverie on Long Shadows.

But the cohesion and individual sounds of the entire group make the album a success.
First, there’s Kenny Wheeler, who pro-vides the right component of lower- and middle-range lyricism. He and Bauer seem to share a musical understanding as just the two of them perform an aptly concise Lover Man, which leaves the listener wishing for more. Or on March 2nd, the significance of whose name escapes me, Bauer sketches a melodic outline to which Wheeler responds and amplifies.

Pianist Bernie Senensky knows how to hold back in accompaniment as Bauer solos, but
then Senensky opens up the themes even more in intelligent expansion. While it was hard to put a finger on his jazz influences at first, at least one of them reveals himself loud and clear as Senensky alludes to Bill Evans Blue In Green motif in Bauer’s Long Shadows.

Bassist Jim Vivian adds his own personality to solos in Circus Balouni, I Hear A
Rhapsody and Long Shadows and to his rhythmic counter-point in March 2nd. And drummer Barry Romberg, far from being a timekeeper (which is the last thing these professionals need), provides yet another voice to the proceedings as the combined effect creates a style more than a performance.

To hear yet another innovator of the vibraharp with a mind of his own, evolved from a
wide variety of influences, check out Coast To Coast, the title of which refers to the group’s recent cross-country tour of Canada.

– Bill Donaldson in Marg Hofacre’s Jazz News, July 1997