Promise The Moon is pianist Dean Stockwell’s follow up album to his leader debut Origin released in May 2017. Both albums feature the piano, bass, drums trio set up with only Dean himself being the constant. Both albums are in that classic jazz style synonymous with the golden age of the 1940s and ‘50s and feature both covers and original compositions.
Track list credits for Promise The Moon:
1 Moon River – Henry Mancini
2 In a Sentimental Mood – Duke Ellington
3 Promise The Moon – Dean Stockdale
4 Mia’s Lullaby – Dean Stockdale
5 They Can’t Take That Away From Me – George Gershwin
6 First Light – Dean Stockdale
7 On The Sunny Side Of The Street – Jimmy McHugh
8 Time For A Change – Dean Stockdale
9 Witchcraft – Cy Coleman
Looking at the covers first: the album opens with a good rendition of Henry Mancini’s ‘Moon River’ (most famously linked with the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s). I like the use of one beat stop time in the parts of the tune that most people will be most familiar with. I also enjoyed what Dean has done in the middle section of the tune; its lightly energetic and shows off the ensemble playing to good effect. The arrangement used here lifts the tune and, in my opinion, is less saccharine than the original. ‘In A Sentimental Mood’, the original tune of which I consider to be a touch too elegiac for my taste, is also improved with the arrangement for this album. Dean’s playing has a light touch, and he does not overplay the tune. As with the opening number, Mick Shoulder on bass and Abbie Finn on drums do a fine job of supporting Dean and there is a good balance between the three of them.
Gershwin’s ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ swings nicely throughout and there is a good solo spot from Mick Shoulder with Abbie Finn keeping a discreet rolling beat bubbling along until she too gets the chance to solo, which she takes without overstaying her welcome. ‘On The Sunny Side Of The Street’ is the most effective arrangement of the covers on this album. The tune is bright and evocative of an afternoon spent walking in the sunshine: an uplifting melody played at just the right tempo with more fine bass and drum solo work. The last of the covers is Cy Coleman’s ‘Witchcraft’, another number played well in that classic jazz style and a nicely upbeat tune on which to end the album.
So, what of the original tunes written by Dean Stockdale? The title track, ‘Promise The Moon’ stands out because it brings the drumming of Abbie Finn to the fore with Mick Shoulder sitting back but without losing the depth of sound that the bass brings to the tune. There is a melodic recurring motif that Dean plays off throughout the track that held my interest and kept me engaged. As you might expect from the title, ‘Mia’s Lullaby’ is just that, a gentle lullaby. The piano playing flows beautifully, the delicate brushwork from Abbie Finn is the perfect accompaniment but it is Mick Shoulder’s sonorous bowed bass that gives a timbre to this tune that lifts it from being just a “simple” lullaby.
For me, the standout track on the album is ‘First Light’. I have been captivated by this tune and how different it is from the other numbers on the album. I was so intrigued by the piece that I asked Dean what his influences were for the tune:
… there are couple of influences with the piece which is why I think it takes on a different mood to the others. I wrote it at a time when I was listening to lots of music by Fred Hersch, who’s compositions can take on a classical feel as he cites Bach as a big influence. The piece and melody itself however is designed to reflect a Bohemian landscape which was inspired by a trip to Prague a few years ago.Dean Stockdale, 2021
‘First Light’ is an exquisite waltz – it would be quite easy to imagine lyrical dancers using this tune to highlight its lilting quality – that flows to its unhurried conclusion: stunning!
‘Time For A Change’ is the last of the tunes written by Dean. This has the feel of an after-hours jazz club number about it. The piano and bass share the spoils on this one with supporting brushwork from Abbie Finn on the drums. I think I detected echoes of ‘Moon River’ in this tune, which, if I am right, would bring the album full circle from where it started: nice touch.
I enjoyed Promise The Moon and had this been a live set I would have gone home content. I should have liked to have heard more of Dean’s own work (four originals on this album compared with seven on his debut album Origin) as I found his compositions engaging, melodic and well balanced in their construction and playing. I should be more than happy to add this classic jazz style album to my collection but for now I need to check out its predecessor and take in more of Mr Stockdale’s own writing skills.
Musicians: Dean Stockdale – piano; Mick Shoulder – bass; Abbie Finn – drums