Indispensable listening.

Livia Records LRCD2201

Louis Stewart (guitar)

Recorded November 1976 & January 1977

Not an album to be listened to casually, and yet not just for guitar buffs only, but a lovely record that deserves to be listened to carefully and with attention to detail. In doing so the listener can delight in the way Stewart assembles not just his solos, but also his accompanying rhythm tracks. By doing so even the non-musicians among us are given a glimpse into the process that makes up the music we call jazz and the intuitive nature of the art of the improviser.

There are many fine albums available featuring Stewart’s playing, but it is doubtful if there any finer than Out On His Own. Here we get the impression that we are hearing the real Louis Stewart in a concentrated investigation of some of his favourite tunes, with the guitarist laying out what he has learned and assimilated to date.

Even at this stage in his career, this is an early leadership date and his second for label owner and producer, Gerald Davis. In an illustrious career Stewart would go on to play an essential part in the jazz scene in the UK with bands led by Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott, as well as a three year stint with Benny Goodman and time spent touring and recording with George Shearing. It is his work in the more intimate settings of a trio that Stewart’s finest playing was often heard.

Stripping that back further it was an inspired idea to capture Louis in a solo recording, and as was his wont, Stewart carefully considered what he wished to play and how best to present it. Of the thirteen tracks on the original album release, for no less than eight of these Stewart provided his own accompaniment, first laying down the rhythm track (heard on the left channel) and then playing his solo on another track.

When listening to the resulting music, as on the fast tempo of the opening ‘Blue Bossa’ and the delicately and sensitively played ‘Stella By Starlight’ one can sense the guitarist mapping out his solo as he lays down the rhythm tracks. This also works extremely well on a superbly crafted ‘General Mojo’s Well Laid Plan’ composed by Steve Swallow, that sounds so complete that one wonders if Stewart had come to this number with a full arrangement previously worked out.

The completely ‘solo’ tracks bring another kind of feel to the music. More spontaneous perhaps, the music seems to flow more freely with Stewart able to react to the moment rather than the confines of the pre-recorded rhythm track.  ‘Darn That Dream is giving a thorough examination, and ‘Lazy Afternoon’ sums up just that.

The notes ringing out pure and clear from the guitar and the gently unfolding melody make for a most enjoyable couple of minutes. ‘I’m Old Fashioned’ is another tune the guitarist must have played hundreds of times but sounds as being performed for the first, and Stewart takes delight in his playing on a lovely ‘What’s New’.

Re-issued in 1995 on CD with three additional tracks, all of which were solo guitar sans backing, and included a spritely ‘I’ll Remember April’ and another lovely ballad in ‘Spring Is Here’, however the real surprise comes in the form of the simply titled ‘Blues’. This is about as authentic as it gets, with Stewart all over his instrument and getting right to the heart of the music.

And this brings us to this latest re-issue that brings three new titles to the mix with alternate takes of ‘What’s New’ and ‘Spring Is Here’ and another surprise choice in Charles Lloyd’s ‘Forest Flower’. In a multi-tracked reading, the accompanying rhythm track spells out the structure of the song simply and the beauty lies in how the guitarist utilises this in his impassioned playing of the melody and his ensuing solo.

Although released early in 2023 it is highly unlikely that this exceptional album will be forgotten or overlooked when it comes to compiling the albums of the year listing. Indispensable listening.

Reviewed by Nick Lea