The new album from Melbourne's Tim Stevens Trio, 'mickets' is a program mostly of original compositions that seek to build on the composed and improvised repertoire the band has developed in it's five years' existence. A return to written forms does not mean a move backwards, for the benefits of having explored collective spontaneous improvisation on three friends in winter (2005) are evident in the group's thoughtful and attentive interplay. This is brought to bear on the thoughtful compositions of stevens' tunes that explore idiosyncratic harmonic structures and extend his lyrical melodic style. Whether it's the groovy 'rufus redux', kicking things off, or the more gently expressive 'prologue-like', the compositions draw the band to regions of mutual exchange and varied expression. Stevens (piano), ben robertson (double bass) and dave beck (drums), draw on a rich and wide-ranging palette of instrumental sound and ensemble texture throughout the recording. 'our little systems', with it's more complicated written structure, gives way to challenging material for improvisation, yet the trio sounds unhurried and unflustered, working out it's ideas in logical succession and developing a solid overall structure. The openness of the ballad '... The body desolate as a staircase' might challenge the patience of many musicians, but tim stevens' band draws maximum expression from space itself, and each sound is considered and compelling. For those who have followed stevens' compositions since 'nine open questions', or even his earlier albums with browne - haywood - stevens ('king, dude and dunce' and 'sudden in a shaft of sunlight'), these things need not be so very surprising. But the development of his compositional voice and of this trio in dealing with his pieces is an ongoing process of refinement, and 'mickets' demonstrates that the trio is resisting any temptation to repeat itself, rather, it continues to seek challenge.