How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
This is Texas-based Frank Hailey's first outing as a leader. Hailey is a cousin of seminal jazz pianist and composer Cedar Walton. But as this CD amply illustrates, Hailey need not invoke the reputation of his well-known relative to gain recognition, revealing he is a fine piano performer in his own right. The thirteen tune play list includes Hailey originals along with familiar material, including a tune from the world of the Mississippi delta in Bobby Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe". His own compositions "Smoothie" and "Smoothie II" are apt descriptors of Hailey's style. Not smooth in the sense of contemporary jazz. But smooth in the sense that the playing is polished, unhurried, unpretentious, fluid and dynamic, with lots of attention given to melody. Hailey's playing features an active right hand which he uses to insert trills and jingly chords at just the right places. This technique is apparent on such cuts as "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" and "I'm Beginning to See the Light". Hailey could be called a light pianist. While no lightweight, he is no pounder, relying on subtle harmonies rather heavy chordal effects. One hears vestiges of Erroll Garner in such tunes as "I'll Remember April", but without the same level of embellishment. Although nothing on the performer list in the liners notes indicate it, Hailey shifts to the keyboards for such tunes as "Angel Eyes". By doing so, he provides an appealing counterpoint to Eric Zukoski's electric bass.
Hopefully this initial outing is the forerunner of more albums in the future. In the meantime, this generous hour of music will be a happy addition to the collections of those who enjoy the solid, tasteful musical statements by a piano trio. Recommended.
Track Listing: Cornwell's Corner; Passing It Around; I'll Remember April; People Will Say We're in Love; I'm Beginning to See the Light*; Smoothie; Ode to Billy Joe; Caravan*; Things Ain't What They Used to Be; I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face; Walk Right in; Angel Eyes; Smoothie II
Personnel: Frank Hailey - Piano; Bob Stewart, Michael Hailey* - drums; Eric Zukoski - Bass