Rivulets of water would have worn away rock in the gestation period of this album. For 35 years, Hamish Stuart has been one of Australia's grooviest drummers across most styles.
His work has graced and deepened the music of Ian Moss, Tina harrod, Marcia Hines, Jade McRae, Jackie Orszaczky, Vince Jones, The Catholics, John Waters and more.
This is his first album as leader.
Not only does all that experience charge Stuart's music, but the album itself was drip-fed into existence via five years of intermittent recording.
Many artists would see this as frustrating, but the end product suggests the process allowed Stuart to absorb what he had, and consider what he needed to make a rounded and cohesive statement.
On 'Songlines' (co-written by Suart and his chief collaborator, Dave Symes), Andrew Robinson's alto sax wafts across a thick pile carpet of piano (Chris Abrahams), guitar (Ben Hauptmann), congas (Aykho Akhrif), bass (Dave Symes) and drums.
Despite all the rhythmic activity, the piece seems, miraculously, to float rather than canter. The Importance of Abrahams conjuring up his sparse, repetitive work with the Necks in this regard cannot be overestimated.
Stuart's brooding theme for 'Sense Of Place' could have seeped from a film noir soundtrack, and is realised by Robinson and the inventive Hauptmann against sparse bass and drums.
A trio of Stuart, Abrahams and Symes cruises through the soothing, hammock-swaying waltz that is 'You Folks'. 'Someone Else's Child' carries echoes of 'Songlines' in terms of floating amid rhythmic animation, this time tenor saxaphone commentry from Matt Ottignon and the interjection of a disquieting vocal line from Harrod and the late Orszaczky.
That mood of unease extends into the exceptional 'When It All Comes Down', with an intense, edgy dialogue between Stuart and trumpeter Phil Slater in a quartet completed by Symes and pianist Stu Hunter.
Orszaczky and Harrod return for the wee-hours feel of 'The Crossing', with keening tenor from Matt Ottignon. Stuart's taste, imagination, thoughtfulness and groove inflect his conception, compositions and playing on this outstanding debut.
He performs at the Seymour Centre on Friday.