A quick look at my CD shelf confirms that the Lewiston-born drummer/composer Steve Grover has been working hard at what he loves since winning the prestigious Thelonious Monk competition for his “Blackbird Suite” in 1994.

His latest disc was recorded at about the same time as “Flying,” last year’s imaginative tribute to the Beatles.  “Statement,” however, features all original Grover compositions and is full of inviting melodies, varied rhythms and sophisticated harmonies. 

On board are regular quintet mates: Trent Austin on trumpet, David Wells on tenor sax, Tony Gaboury on guitar and Chris Van Voorst Van Beest on bass. The “Plus One” is Jason St. Pierre, who adds alto sax on four of the disc’s nine tracks.

The title “A Sad Song Is Playing” may give a clue as to that tune’s feel. But it’s so nicely played, with Gaboury and Wells out in front of the leader’s fine brush work, that it seems also to console. 

Austin gets his horn to shout and growl just a little on the soulful title track, while on “Bittersweet,” the trumpeter and Wells share a unison line over a subtle samba beat.  The ballad “Kindness Is All” features some very nice solo variations by Van Voorst Van Beest before Wells adds his own rich commentary on the theme.

Among the sextet pieces, “An Aspect of Things” features a very lively bop-based solo by St. Pierre, while “Do What You Want” lets the two sax men musically converse with true elo-quence. These larger ensemble pieces really strike a near-perfect balance between collective and individual contributions. 

Grover’s latest musical declaration more than meets the high expectations he has established over the years, and confirms the  continuing refinement of his musical point of view.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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