Bert Dalton is a jazz pianist hailing from Chicago originally, who has played with the likes of Bud Shank, Herbie Mann, Anita O'Day, Regina Carter, and Frank Morgan. Dalton's interests in music evidently run wide; currently Dalton is Music Director of the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, where he is now also based of course. This is his long-overdue debut record, and it is a fine one at that. Here he unveils his own musical talent and facility at the keyboard with some prime company on board; West coast swingmen John Clayton- bass and Jeff Hamilton- drums.
On this record the trio navigates through a program of roughly half jazz standards and half Dalton originals. Moreover there are a variety of feels and tempos here; there is anything from the opening standard "El Cajon", which has the trio sounding rather like the Peterson trio in its "full swing ahead" mode, or "Some Other Time", which is positively plaintive and where one feels reverberations of Bill Evans. That said, it is probably the tunes taken at medium tempo which sound the best on this recording; Dalton's own Midnight Coffee, the title track, is a fine example of this trio playing together in a casual but "listening" way. There's a nice trading fours segment here. Likewise, "Things Ain't what They Used to Be"- while seemingly taken from a Ray Brown record (Clayton's bass right out in front here), is a swinging blues excursion which finds these men in similarly casual but effective order. Dalton takes pedaled octave choruses in grand style here.
Kudos should go to Dalton for electing to cover Jimmy Rowles' The Peacocks, a lovely tune still not played enough to this day. It is played at a slow tempo, and this cut may be after all be the master track on the record. It opens with a beautiful John Clayton arco bass reading of the melody, then segues into some impressionistic playing by Dalton, before settling into the form, and then back out to Clayton's tender arco again. Dalton's solo is a reflection of deep respect for the tune, obviously. Nice.
Overall, this is a fine jazz piano trio record that should not go overlooked. It shall be especially attractive to those fans of piano trios like those of Oscar Peterson, Cedar Walton or Benny Green. It is decidedly mainstream- a blues and ballads program with no major surprises, but is plenty good in that light. Congratulations to Bert Dalton for coming out onto the national stage with a recording that is only flattering to a fine jazz pianist perhaps not yet acceded his due.
An added note: the sound is excellent here, especially the way Dalton's partners are miked- great cymbal reception and as alluded to, Clayton's bass is prominent- in a good way.
Personnel: Bert Dalton- Piano; John Clayton- Bass; Jeff Hamilton- Drums.