The recently reactivated Livia Records announces the release of a newly re-mastered edition of Louis Stewart’s milestone and career best solo album, Out On His Own. Recorded in late 1976 and released in 1977 (LP and cassette) and CD in 1995, this new edition includes three previously unreleased tracks, a sixteen-page booklet with extensive sleeve notes and several previously unseen photographs.
Out On His Own is a fitting title for Louis Stewart as he is perhaps the only Irish jazz musician to attain international front-rank status. This solo record features a mix of lead only and rhythm with lead tracks with a repertoire of Jazz and American Songbook standards, contemporary composers (Chick Corea, Steve Swallow etc.) plus an interpretation of an Irish traditional tune and a self-composed blues. The album was recorded in Bray, just south of Dublin, while Louis was at his peak and alternating between playing with Ronnie Scott’s band in London with the best of visiting musicians, and his frequent trips back to Dublin to play to packed clubs and bars.
The album opens with ‘Blue Bossa’ with Louis playing both rhythm and lead guitar. This is a good uptempo opening number that certainly shows the guitar skills Louis possessed. ‘Windows’ shows that Louis understood how to blend the two guitars – one through the left channel and one through the right – and create a beautifully balanced sound where every note is made to count. ‘Darn That Dream’ is the first of the tracks that features a single guitar that left me, as a non musician, somewhat in awe of the skill and dexterity on show. The tune is a good one but it is the way it is delivered that had me pressing the replay button.
There are nineteen tracks on this album and I was initially concerned that this is a lot of music for a solo guitarist to carry across the length of an album and keep the listener interested. However, these concerns soon dissipated as I moved through Out On His Own. The album is well balanced with its mix of solo guitar and lead/rhythm guitar and there is enough variation in tempo to prevent the overall feel being one dimensional. Above all else, it is the quality of Louis Stewart’s playing that makes this solo album a cut above the rest and a fitting tribute to a musician who understood both the music he played and the instrument on which he played it.
Out On His Own still stands as the most personal and completely assured recording that Louis Stewart made under his own name. Thanks to the foresight of original producer, Gerald Davis, and the dedication and hard work of executive producer Dermot Rogers who led the retrieval and reactivation of the Livia archive from obscurity, it can be heard again, and a new generation of listeners can bear witness that such a guitarist as this once lived and played in Dublin’s fair city.
Out On His Own is released 24 February and can be purchased through Bandcamp.
Tracklist: 1. Blue Bossa*. 2. Windows*. 3. Darn That Dream. 4. Wave*. 5. She Moved Through The Fair. 6. Make Someone Happy*. 7. I’m All Smiles*. 8. Stella By Starlight*. 9. Lazy Afternoon. 10. Invitation*. 11. I’m Old Fashioned. 12. General Mojo’s Well Laid Plan*. 13. What’s New. 14. I’ll Remember April. 15. Spring Is Here. 16. Blues. 17. Forest Flower. 18. What’s New ** –alt. take. 19. Spring Is Here ** –alt. take.
* Louis on rhythm and lead. ** New to this release