David Hazeltine: Modern Standards
DH: Right, that's right. It'd probably be more like Frank Sinatra singing it, or something. But that's good enough for me (Laughs).
AAJ: Big time. So you do most of your records for Sharp Nine Records now?
DH: I record for Sharp Nine Records here in the States. I record for a Dutch label, Criss Cross, that's out of Amsterdam. And then I work for a Japanese label called Venus out of Tokyo. I just did my 5th CD for them called The Music Of Bud Powell. I arranged and played in a trio format about eleven or twelve Powell tunes with [drummer] Billy Drummond and [bassist] George Mraz. They did a really great job and I really liked that project more than I thought I would. Because it's one thing to play standards, other people's music, and do my own thing with it. But to make a whole CD of [one other artist's music]...
They really like this in Japan though. The first record I did for the Japanese label was The Music Of Bill Evans, so I did all Evans tunes. It's not so much my thing to do that. But whatever; it's something they like and something I can do. Then they wanted The Music Of Horace Silver. But it becomes increasingly challenging and difficult to put my stamp on other jazz pianists' tunes. Because, like the same problem with Earth, Wind, & Fire and those other kinds of things, they're already so rich with stuff. What am I going to add? What am I going to do? But Bud Powell was a little bit easier just because he was older. There were some opportunities for me to, sort of, modernize a little of the harmony. But I didn't want to do it too much because I didn't want to take away the character of Powell's music. I mean, it's so great.
AAJ: Well, especially since you're a pianist and all these guys you're talking about are pianists. It'd be another thing if it was a trumpet player doing a tribute to Bud Powell.
DH: Right, right. Exactly. I hope that Bud is still lying in his grave in the same position; He hasn't [rolled] too many times from me doing this (Laughs). And, of course, Bill [Evans] was long gone when I did that. But Horace [Silver] actually got a copy of the thing I did and called me up and raved about it. I didn't speak to him directly. He talked to my answering service and he was raving and raving about it. I was so excited to get this message. I wanted so much to get it off my service and onto a tape so that I could save this thing of Horace talking about my record of me playing his tunes. Wouldn't you know it, by the time I figured something out the thirty days they allow for the message to be in the saved mode expired. So I lost Horace saying this.
AAJ: That's too bad.
DH: I thought about calling him back (Laughs). Saying would you please do this one more time. But it might be a little forced (Laughs). So this idea of playing other people's music, it's not something I like so much. So [Marc Edelman] wanted to do a CD of me just playing my stuff. I have to say, of all three labels I've mentioned, I probably have the best and most hands on relationship with Marc and Sharp Nine Records. He's the one I've recorded with the longest and he's been the most fair with me in terms of allowing me the freedom to do what I want and also letting me be involved in the project after recording it. You know, all the details: which takes, liner notes, artwork, this kind of thing. He allows me to be involved. Whereas with the other labels, not so much (Laughs).
AAJ: Yeah. The Criss Cross label... Some of the other records Marc sent me of yours... I'm interested in one particular recording studio they seem to use a lot, and the records all sound really good. It's called Systems Two.
DH: Oh yeah.
AAJ: Almost all the Criss Cross Records seem to be done there.
DH: Yeah. It's been done there in the last 6-7 years. He started at Rudy Van Gelder's in the late 80s.
AAJ: Marc, or the guy that runs Criss Cross?
DH: Actually, Marc did too. But the guy that runs Criss Cross [Gerry Teekens] started there in the late 80s at Rudy Van Gelder's. Then he moved to a studio in Manhattan called RPM. I did several there back in '95-'96my first one or two for Criss Cross. Then he moved to Systems Two around 1998. Yeah, Systems Two is a very nice studio, state of the art. The only problem is it's way out in Brooklyn (Laughs). It's a little bit of a trek to get there but...
AAJ: Yeah. I just wanted to ask about that. All the records I get that are recorded at Systems Two sound to me like the guys there just let people play. You know, somehow it sounds natural, like the people are having fun playing. I don't know.