Jeff Hackworth: Night Owl (2011)
If there is one trait that time has etched on Jeff Hackworth's career it is his development as a tenor saxophonist. Hackworth has shown a growing maturity on his recordings, with Night Owl being his strongest. He is not afraid to take chances and develops themes with an abiding sense of adventure. His tone can be smooth and coaxing, but it is can also be abrasive as it underscores a tensile groove. Put together they make for music that is admirable for its sense of vision and accomplishment.
Hackworth's choice of tunes serves him well with the standards sitting comfortably with his own work as well as a song from The Doors. "Love Me Two Times" settles into the comfort of the blues, as Hackworth blows notes that billow and wrap the melody. His extrapolation into swing enhances the feel, one that is captured by vibraphonist Jay Hoggard who is bright, breezy and downright scintillating. Add the undercurrent of blues from organist Radam Schwartz and the polyrhythmic propulsion of Earl Grice, and the tune becomes absolutely exhilarating.
The mood is earthy on the balladic title track, resonating with soulful playing. Each player keeps his vision clear and focused, with Hackworth displaying admirable control as he wraps his sax over the song's contours. Hoggard lends a quiet, harmonically compact dynamism.
The band is right at home on the rambunctious, Memphis-hewn "Sideswipe," standing in contrast to the silken "We Kiss In A Shadow." In tandem, they profile the versatility of a band that goes out high on "You'd Better Love Me." Hackworth swings hard, pitching, intense lines as he builds a steamy edifice, finding his counterpart in Schwartz. Hoggard is the minstrel between them, his light touch tempering the torrid atmosphere. The band is the messenger, and a wonderful one at that, as it serves up a diverse and consistently pleasing album.
Track Listing: The Man; Innuendo; Love Me Two Times; Little Blue; Night Owl; Sideswipe; I'm Your Puppet; That Lucky Old Sun; We Kiss in a Shadow; You'd Better Love Me.
Personnel: Jeff Hackworth: tenor saxophone; Jay Hoggard: vibraphone; Radam Schwartz: organ; Earl Grice: drums.