John Stetch

John Stetch

BandJazz

John Stetch has emerged on the world stage as one of the most brilliant and original pianists of his generation, reaping accolades from DownBeat to Billboard and around the world.

Biography

John Stetch has emerged on the world stage as one of the finest pianists of his generation, with solid press accolades from such publications as Downbeat and Billboard, as well as many similar publications from Europe and the Far East. A Steinway artist, Stetch has earned widespread praise and recognition for his stunning virtuosity and unique imagination.

Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Stetch began playing the piano unusually late – at age eighteen. His musical interests began at age nine, when his father passed down his own clarinet and taught him the basics. After several years, Stetch switched to saxophone – beginning with alto, then eventually completing his first year of university on classical tenor saxophone. “When I first broached the idea of playing piano, several of my teachers actually chuckled at the idea that I could suddenly take up piano so late in life. Come to think of it, they actually discouraged me. But I just felt that I had to make the change. It was something I knew I had to do … I just felt that the piano was my higher calling. The rhythmic and harmonic potential of the piano seduced me, and I felt that, more than with other instruments, the piano was something that was inspiring to work at alone.”

Stetch's life as a professional musician began when he moved to Montreal to attend McGill University. After working for several years on the Montreal scene, Stetch recorded his first album, Rectangle Man, which led to subsequent tours and recordings. He was a frequent guest on the CBC's (Canadian Broadcasting Company) Jazzbeat. Stetch moved to New York in 1992 and continued to work with his own trio and quartet. He also worked as a sideman with Rufus Reid for seven years and had occasion to work with James "Blood" Ulmer, Reggie Workman, Rashied Ali, Billy Hart, Mark Turner, Seamus Blake, Carmen Lundy and others. Three of Stetch's recordings have been nominated for Juno Awards (the Canadian Grammies). He earned Second Place in the Thelonious Monk Composer's Competition and claimed first prize – Le Grand Prix du Jazz du Maurier - at the 1998 Montreal International Jazz Festival, which in turn led to his debut recording for Justin Time. Stetch was featured on Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz" show on NPR, and his solo concerts at the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival were broadcast on Branford Marsalis' NPR show, "Jazz Set."

After several solo concerts, Stetch reached a pivotal moment in his career. Although he loved group playing, he realized that he now wanted to explore the art and challenge of solo piano, which evolved into a plan to record a solo piano series. In 2002, Stetch released Ukrainianism, the first recording in his solo trilogy for Justin Time Records. Ukrainianism celebrates Stetch’s Ukrainian heritage by featuring a blend of jazz, classical and world-influenced arrangements of folk tunes that had been part of his life. This was received with voluminous critical acclaim and was hailed by Down Beat as “one of the best solo piano recordings in recent years”. Jazziz called it “a very powerful and truly monumental recording”. The second release, Standards, featuring ‘derangements’ of some well-treaded material, was released in 2003. This was met with equal enthusiasm - JazzTimes praised Stetch for possessing “an unlimited imagination, unique harmonic and rhythmic conceptions and the digital dexterity to execute any idea he hears".

With the release of Exponentially Monk, Stetch completes his solo trilogy and joins the ranks of other piano masters in creating a collection of fresh solo repertoire. As the title implies, the focus is solely on one composer – Thelonious Monk. This galvanizing and brilliant recording bursts with momentum, swing, humor, quirkiness, rich textures, buoyancy and a personal approach to this venerable material. The album also features a more somber side showcasing three exquisite ballads.

Since beginning his solo series, Stetch has given solo concerts at some of the world’s most prestigious jazz venues, including the Monterey and Montreal Jazz Festivals. In support of his career, the Canadian Government has awarded Stetch with numerous grants for touring, development and composition, including a current year-long grant to develop free improvisation. He has also been commissioned by several private foundations for his work. Though his current primary focus is solo piano, Stetch’s performance schedule still includes touring with his New York trio.

“A true virtuoso”, according to Audiophile Audition, Stetch says "The freedom of solo piano is an exhilarating experience and pushes my musicianship to the limit." After hearing Stetch in performance, one could ask where that limit might be.

Discography

Exponentially Monk 2004
Standards 2003
Ukrainianism 2002
Heavens Of A Hundred Days 2000
Green Grove 1999