This is a sparkling, deeply–grooved session by four seasoned pros whose musical temperaments are perfectly harmonized. While Locke and Hazeltine, both 40, have known each other for more than a decade, Mutual Admiration Society marks their first collaborative effort in a recording studio, one in which the reciprocal esteem is evident from start to finish. Locke and Hazeltine are so harmoniously well–matched that one sometimes wonders if they mightn’t be able to read each other’s thoughts. Also on the same wavelength are Essiet and Drummond whose unflagging support is an indispensable part of the album’s success.
There’s no doubt, however, about who the leaders are — Locke wrote three of the album’s eight selections, Hazeltine two others, and together they take most of the solos. Completing the program are the standards “Spring Will Be a Little Late” and “For All We Know” and the Burt Bacharach/Hal David pop hit, “I Say a Little Prayer” (taken at a slower tempo than we’d ever heard before). On the other hand, “For All We Know,” ordinarily a ballad, is played in an up-tempo Latin groove, which evens the score. Whatever the pace or mood, Locke and Hazeltine are clearly on their game, spinning many an engaging post–bop phrase while sounding nothing at all like that celebrated archetype of piano/vibes quartets, the MJQ. While Locke could perhaps pass for Milt Jackson, Hazeltine’s pianisms are far too warm–blooded and percussive ever to be mistaken for the ultra–composed John Lewis. After a relatively placid start, the session moves into high gear with Hazeltine’s “Can We Talk?” (I’d have led with that one) and continues apace with Locke’s “Haze Factor” and Hazeltine’s lovely ballad “Tears in Her Heart.” Frank Loesser’s “Spring Will Be a Little Late,” taken for a pleasant medium–tempo stroll, is a highlight with tasteful solos by the co–leaders, another by Essiet and the usual superb backing from bass and drums.
Locke’s “Diamonds Remain,” dedicated to the late Don Grolnick, is next, and the foursome caps its pleasantly swinging date with “For All We Know.” And for all we know, those who hear it may wish to add their names to the Locke/Hazeltine mutual admiration society.
Track Listing: K-Man's Crew; I Say A Little Prayer; Can We Talk?; The Haze Factor; Tears In Her Heart; Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year; Diamonds Remain; For All We Know. (59:42)
Personnel: Joe Locke, vibes; David Hazeltine, piano; Essiet Essiet, bass; Billy Drummond, drums.