The past year has been a banner one for pianist David Hazeltine. First, there was the summer release of his duo with vibraphonist Joe Locke, Mutual Admiration Society. Then, there was his resplendent tribute to Bill Evans, A Waltz for Debby done for the Japanese Venus label. Finally, we come to the disc at hand, A World for Her, which happens to be his second date as a leader for Criss Cross Jazz. And while this set is probably the loosest of the three in terms of pre-arranged charts and amount of self-penned material, it still has many charms that can lead to a solid recommendation without any apprehension.
Hazeltine suggests in the liners that he intended this project to be more of a unrestrained blowing date, and that's what we get with roughly six standards and just two of David's own originals. However, as he proved with his flawless Sharp Nine album, The Classic Trio, what Hazeltine does with standards is far from the ordinary. Just check out the beginning strains of the opening "My Foolish Heart," where he crafts a delectable vamp that sets up the relaxed and "in the pocket" groove which runs nearly eleven minutes without wearing out its welcome. Hazeltine is also extremely adept at creating a sustained ballad mood as his radiant title track more than proves. What comes as a slight surprise is the heretofore unexplored Coltrane influence provided via a blistering trio performance of "Moment's Notice," which features a tasteful drum solo from Joe Farnsworth, and a quartet take on "Soul Eyes" that provides some of Javon Jackson's finest ballad playing to date.
As a way of providing a bit of a playing card, it should be noted that actually two different groups were utilized for this set, a quartet with Jackson and Louis Hayes in the drum chair and a trio with Farnsworth spelling Hayes and vibraphonist Steve Nelson sitting in for a version of "Old Devil Moon." While recognition has certainly taken its time in catching up with David Hazeltine, it's certainly hoped that as his catalog fills out with the type of inspired productions we get here, even more fans will recognize this pianist as a world-class player which the jazz community has been asleep on for far too long.
Track Listing: My Foolish Heart, This One's for Bud, A World for Her, Moment's Notice, Soul Eyes, Old Devil Moon, What'll I Do, Bitter Sweet (63:30)
Personnel: David Hazeltine- piano, Javon Jackson- tenor saxophone, Steve Nelson- vibes (track 6 only), Peter Washington- bass, Louis Hayes- drums, Joe Farnsworth- drums (tracks 2, 4, and 6 only)