The Jessica Stuart Few
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Toronto’s Jessica Stuart has hit her groove – while the surging rhythms are clearly rooted in the improvisational give-and-take of modern jazz and progressive folk, suffice it to say, you’ve never heard anything quite like The Jessica Stuart Few.
A uniquely gifted guitarist equally adept on koto (a 13-string traditional Japanese floor harp), Stuart cites as influences Stereolab, Led Zeppelin (really), Stevie Wonder, and Joni Mitchell. Those choices may initially seem difficult to reconcile if not completely incongruous, but that’s probably why Stuart currently performs in five other bands at last count, when not singing with either of her two choirs. Evidently, it’s all been leading up to The Jessica Stuart Few’s totally enchanting Kid Dream album.
Deftly produced and mixed by Stuart in conjunction with Oddities mainman Mischa Chillak, best known for his sophisticated beatwise work with underground hip-hop heroes Notes To Self (BBE Records) and K-OS, Kid Dream is much more than just a revealing document of Stuart’s three-year creative collaboration with Charlie Haden-inspired double bass ace Dan Fortin (Serena Ryder) and propulsive percussionist Nico Dann (Tuneyards), it represents the sum total of everything she’s gleaned since growing up in Vancouver.
The engaging 11-song expedition brings together the diverse cultural experiences of Stuart’s time in Japan, Israel and Australia as well her various moonlighting musical ventures while showcasing her formidable string-slinger chops and compositional skills. All that and Jessica still manages to squeeze in a whimsical homage to her favourite Moog motivators Stereolab with the delightful Aerobelts, complete with other-worldly vibraphonic chiming, handclapping and an a cappella vocal breakdown for good measure.
No less catchy is the floor-filling jazz funk joint White Rice, Brown Sugar whose sweet Hammond organ runs will definitely have heads nodding. Likewise, the album’s title track Kid Dream features the absolute coolest use of koto, with Stuart plucking out the catchy melodic hook to this reggae-inspired fantasy song. The songs So Slow and (Don’t Live Just For The) Weekend show that Stuart also has a knack for slyly sneaking meaningful messages into what might appear to be breezy pop tunes. The underlying theme in all of Stuart’s uplifting music on Kid Dream is that it’s important to make the most of every moment. If her crazy tour schedule is any indication, she’s taken the wise adage to heart.