Home Safely is the first release by Favorite Records, a record label formed this year, though the album itself was cut over a decade ago at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis. The trio features Chicago-born pianist Curtis Clark, bandleader for this session and the composer of all twelve tracks found here, as well as two prolific Dutchmen: drummer Han Bennink and bassist Ernst Glerum.
This outstanding disc has the mood and sound of a mainstream jazz release from the late ’50s that has fallen through some cosmic wormhole into the present day. The emphasis of Curtis’ charts is on strong piano-based melody, and there is enough here to last well into the next century, beginning with the lullaby rises and falls of “Home Safely (& Peacefully),” moving on to the colorful Monk-like lines of “Miss T,” continuing with the familiar (albeit twisted) bluesy hook that opens and punctuates “Sean,” and winding up somewhere around the zesty calypso of “Marseille.”
Throughout it all, Clark swings (“Espace Theatral”). He mopes (“Duped”). He shrugs (“Scratched”). He reminisces (“Sophia”). That is to say, he does more than create a certain ambience or dazzle with clever harmonies and chord progressions. He also imitates gesture and action. This, I think, is what gives Home Safely its timeless, universal quality. The technique and tunes may age, but the essentially human aspects of them will not.
Bennink’s drumming—almost all brushes—is first-rate. He gives poetic weight to “Ballad of Jake Spoon” with his evocation of a timepiece and sprinkles “Espace Theatral” and “Marseille,” among others, with subtle fills, rimshots, high hats and spirited cymbal dances. He is assertive and ruthlessly precise—even at his most subdued, as on “Another Blues.” On double bass, Glerum does an excellent job of occupying the limbo between rhythm and harmony. The series of rubbery climbs that conclude his “Spooky Conversations” solo positively make the song. He takes out his bow for the first and only time on the frail, aching album closer, “Letter to South Africa.” What is perhaps most appealing is the way the musicians’ solos are integrated into each song. They don’t stand out. Their intent isn’t to draw attention to themselves; rather it’s to be inconspicuous, to blend in.
No one will be able to argue that Home Safely has marked a sea change in jazz music, but for many listeners it should nevertheless live up to the name of its nascent label. The only lingering question is this: will we have to wait another ten years for the next release from this excellent trio?
Visit Favorite Records , Ernst Glerum and Han Bennink on the web.