Recorded August 21, 1999 at one of Frank Hewitt's after-hours sessions at Smalls, this set represents his regular Saturday night quintet feature, which placed the house pianist in close contact with his audience week after week. Hewitt performed at Smalls approximately one thousand times between 1994 and his death in September, 2002.
With his cohesive quintet, the pianist works out extended pieces for this set, giving his audience a swinging groove in which to get all wrapped up, as well as spontaneous fits of passion that squeeze plenty of notes into each measure. The quintet is exciting. At a time of night when most of the world is fast asleep, Hewitt's quintet charms its New York audience with refrains both complex and mesmerizing. Sitting with them from 3 to 5 am, most of those who had dropped by to listen would surely find solace in the band's intricate designs.
Hewitt plays with a crisp attack and a flood of ideas. His two saxophonists and rhythm section keep up, giving the night a thousand sixteenth notes. Chris Byars pours a fluid stream of improvised melody from his horn, while Mike Mullins twists and turns this way and that. Yin and yang, light and heavy, the two saxophonists approach each theme differently; however, Hewitt's swinging groove finds a common denominator every time. His piano adventures serve to add a sparkle that recalls the high energetic technique that Don Pullen applied to the piano's keyboard every time out. Hewitt has fun, pleases his audience with rhythmic fire, and brings it all around into one cohesive party.
As they close with "Manteca," you can feel the vibrations and the straight-ahead jazz tradition. Hewitt's recommended session puts you right there in the club to feel the vibe and to soak it all up naturally.
Personnel: Frank Hewitt: piano; Chris Byars: tenor saxophone; Mike Mullins: alto saxophone; Ari Roland: bass; Jimmy Lovelace: drums.