For his debut recording on Blujazz, veteran pianist and erstwhile jazz professor Dan Haerle has taken a safe but not altogether predictable tack, opting for a set of back-to-back familiar standards that lend the album its title.
"Body and Soul" gets a fresh intro of leaps and cascades. Haerle maintains this technique to greater and lesser degrees throughout; joined (as on his previous album, 1999's The Truth of the Matter) by lush-toned bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Jack Mouse, he transitions from dreamy nostalgia to outright swing and back again. The trio works well togethermost especially Haerle and Bowman, though this might be a matter of acoustics more than the proverbial hangup of three being a crowd. Hi-fi systems can vary, to be sure, but there is a peculiar sound to the drums on this number and elsewhere on the disc, as if they've been pasted on or recorded at a distance.
Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are" is mercurial and potent. There are some memorable moments here: Haerle's hard-hitting chord repetitions and sprinkling close-out, Mouse's furious drumrolls, Bowman's emphatic solo. The three musicians truly come together on Erroll Garner's "Misty" (which, I believe, vies with "Round Midnight" for the honor of Most Frequently Recorded Standard). Mouse and Bowman lay down a smooth samba rhythm while Haerle, perhaps taking a cue from Oscar Peterson, seems to make a point of underlining the song's similarities with Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby." Later on the disc Haerle draws musical parallels between a bouncy, latinized "On Green Dolphin Street" and yet another standard, Juan Tizol's "Caravan." As a matter of fact, the parallels are so close that at first listen I thought it was a quirky version of "Caravan," until I consulted the CD jacket.
With the group's straight-ahead reading, Miles Davis' "All Blues" feels too structured and remains rather stiff, even when it's trying to let loose and swing. All three musicians introduce some good ideas, but there is a suit-and-tie quality that never quite allows those ideas to overcome this sense of restraint. Oddly, that restraint vanishes on the quieter track that follows, the Horace Silver chart "Peace," though here, too, the drums have that thin, faraway sound.
"Someday My Prince Will Come" and "Blue Bossa" wrap up Standard Procedure in appropriate fashion, with no lack of fine playing (Bowman takes a fairly meaty solo on each track) in a very conventional mode. By and large these renditions are not the most intricate or the most radical ones a jazz fan can hear of these oft- (and in some cases over-) performed tunes, but Haerle and his companions do bring a measure of flair and insight to the table.
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