It used to be that if you wanted to hear some very classy piano jazz you pretty much had only a few choices. Those in New York could chose to stroll down to the now defunct Bradley’s, while the rest of us could be content in picking up a Tommy Flanagan or Kenny Barron album. About five years ago a new piano star began to change all that. While still a fledgling label, the Sharp Nine imprint released The Classic Trio headed up by David Hazeltine and those with even a tin ear had to admit that something agreeable was afoot.
Proving that you can never have too much of a good thing, this second Sharp Nine session for Messieurs Hazeltine, Washington, and Hayes presents another hour’s worth of some of the best piano jazz to be heard. While some of the grandeur of the first set, which came via the legendary sound engineering of Rudy Van Gelder, is missing (this one is cut at Systems Two in Brooklyn), the overall results are no less inspiring. The highlight of the set is another in a fine line of Burt Bacharach originals given the Hazeltine treatment. A slow and stately “What the World Needs Now” joins past recastings of “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Alfie”
Four originals by Hazeltine mix in nicely with such standards as “The Days of Wine and Roses” and “Prelude to a Kiss.” The former chestnut has never sounded prettier. Starting off solo in rubato fashion, Hazeltine then falls into a relaxed stride, before turning things up another notch as Hayes drops the brushes and picks up his sticks. Working in reverse, things settle down nicely following a very melodic solo from Washington. Hazeltine’s own lines are chock full of originality, from the up tempo swing of “From Here to There” to the melancholy pseudo bossa treatment of “Too Sweet to Bear.” Simply put, Hazeltine has added another solid entry to an already very impressive catalog.
Track Listing: Face to Face, What the World Needs Now, From Here to There, Days of Wine and Roses, Too Sweet to Bear, Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered, Prelude to a Kiss, Pete
Personnel: David Hazeltine (piano), Peter Washington (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)