Encounterpoint presents yet another example of the dependable, unassuming work coming out of the school systems today. It features the leader, guitarist and Berklee faculty member John Stein, with two Berklee students, keyboardist Koichi Sato and bassist John Lockwood, plus drummer Zé Eduardo Nazario. While the backing trio hails from Japan, South Africa and Brazil respectively, this is a disc of straight-ahead swinging jazz with a few Latin tinges for coloring.
Stein possesses a warm, appealing tone and solos on each track with a touch that's inventive but never too surprising. Sato never steps on the leader's toes and gets to improvise tastefully on electric keyboard and organ. (A little acoustic piano would have made a nice change of pace here without altering the overall feel of the disc). Lockwood stays pretty much in the background with a solid foundation and a few solo spots. And while Nazario gets his first break on the opening cut "Jordu," he sticks to the drum kit there and throughout the disc, save for "Dindi," where he breaks out the percussion. On that track Stein overdubs himself on bass and drops Sato for an intimate trio setting. That and another Jobim piece, "So Danço Samba," bring a bossa feel to the proceedings.
Stein wisely sprinkles just four originals into this set, including a 3/4 piece, a blues and two swingers. "Encounterpoint" won't change the world, but it does make for some pleasant, jazzy ear candy.