Frank Hewitt: We Loved You & Not Afraid to Live

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Oh the woebegone days of a jazz musician, as he makes his way toward mastery, accompanying many of the greats, struggling to keep abreast of the industry, make a name for himself, playing nightly at local clubs, garnering a base of fans, but most of them poor musicians themselves... Such was the way of life for pianist Frank Hewitt who on Sept. 5, 2002 died, just over a year before the release of his first album as a leader, We Loved You. Not Afraid To Live is tagged "Vol. 2 of the historic recordings of the late master jazz pianist."

With eight tracks each, both albums offer just over an hour of gorgeous jazz that glows with enchanting hues. Bursting with familiarity, it's the kind of music you'd like to invite to your home and let stay for an entire season of cozy dinners and fireside reveries. And it's clear Hewitt shared this kind of bond with his sidemen, bassist Ari Roland and drummers Louis Hayes who plays on Not Afraid To Live , the late Jimmy Lovelace who appears on the first five tracks of We Loved You and Danny Rosenfeld, who plays on the remaining three.

Frank Hewitt
We Loved You
Smalls Records

On We Loved You , the group gracefully charters their way through a series of standards and one Hewitt original, "Frank's Blues." It's a feisty gallop into punchy terrain that all three players drive together with individual vigor. Though bass and drums rumble silently among Hewitt's piano on this album, the quiet nuances of Roland's bowed bass solos add an attractively worn texture. Hewitt often plays a myriad of phrases that crest over each other in waves of sound. His soft but authoritative touch makes the keys glisten as he plays an improvisational intro to each tune before deciding which song it will be.

Frank Hewitt Trio
Not Afraid to Live
Smalls Records

Flirtation surrounds We Loved You 's "I'll Remember April," as Hewitt speckles his lines with charming pauses. But on Not Afraid To Live , which also contains this tune, the band jumps right in, led by Hayes' tumultuous drumming. It's a love affair at full throttle, running through the phrases with brisk abandon, changing moods in a snap.

The inclusion of Hayes invigorates the group. Hewitt sounds more energetic and Roland's rugged solos are frequent. In contrast to We Loved You 's beautiful subtlety, Not Afraid To Live gets off to a vivacious start with "On Green Dolphin Street" and stays that way all the way through "You Stepped Out Of A Dream." The final track finishes up on an inconspicuous note, almost like Hewitt was caught in the middle of a breath. We wait anxiously to discover what he had to say next.

We Loved You

Tracks: 1. Ghost of a Chance (9:11); 2. Polka Dots and Moonbeams (7:40); 3. That Old Devil Called Love (7:39); 4. I Remember You (8:49); 5. I'll Remember April (8:25); 6. Lady Bird (8:53); 7. Frank's Blues (8:48); 8. Cherokee (8:35).
Personnel: Frank Hewitt: Piano; Jimmy Lovelace: Drums; Ari Roland: Bass.

Not Afraid to Live

Tracks: 1. Green Dolphin Street (6:46); 2. A Night in Tunisia (7:57); 3. Just One of Those Things (9:40); 4. The Nearness of You (8:39); 5. Manteca (9:45); 6. What's New? (6:46); 7. I'll Remember April (8:53); 8. You Stepped Out of a Dream (9:15).
Personnel: Louis Hayes: Drums; Frank Hewitt: Piano; Ari Roland: Bass.

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