176

A Pair of Triplets: Piano Trio Summit

Peter Aaron By

Sign in to view read count
Bet it's being done right now, near you.

In an intimate, upscale restaurant, a piano trio, led by the tired cat on the bench, is trying really hard to fuel the "ambiance." And, given this is the domain generally reserved for hacks, odds are it's failing miserably. Not that many of the patrons ever even look up from their steaks long enough to notice. Tragic.

But, to the eternal credit of those nameless, time-marking threesomes around the globe, it takes a ton of guts to play piano in a trio in a post-Garner/Evans/Peterson world. It's not like playing horn or guitar in front of a rhythm section, you can't turn the clunkers into jewels by slurring or smearing any missed notes. If you overreach or hit a bum chord you're naked and it's hanging right there, clear as day, for your sidemen to grimace over and the audience to choke on. No doubt this is why so many of the more commercially successful trios feature pianists who sing; besides giving the notoriously impatient general populace some lyrics to follow, a vocal can be a convenient smokescreen for the keyboardist's potential shortcomings as instrumentalist - Nat "King" Cole and Mose Allison being two obvious exceptions to this theory. But still there are those instrumentalists brave enough to try. And, in the case of these excellent new outings by the trios of David Hazeltine and Tardo Hammer, we should thank the stars for that.


David Hazeltine Trio
Close to You
Criss Cross
2004

We have Chet Baker to thank for urging the Milwaukee-born Hazeltine to get his bench-worn butt to New York City. Upon arrival in 1992, Hazeltine teamed up with bass ace Peter Washington and drummer Louis Hayes; Joe Farnsworth now occupies the drum stool and also plays in Hazeltine's and Washington's other outfit, the hard bop quartet One For All. Brisk, melodic, and razor-sharp, Hazeltine's Tatum/Powell-informed chops lend themselves well to deconstructing standards ("You Don't Know What Love Is," "I'm Old Fashioned") and pop tunes (The Stylistics' "Betcha By Golly Wow," on Four Flights Up, a 1995 quartet date featuring Slide Hampton). And what a great little band he has: Washington strokes and walks his lines with strident ease, while Art Taylor protege' Farnsworth's shimmering cymbals and snappy snare keep the set riveting and tight. No stranger to Burt Bacharach - in the past he's tackled "I Say a Little Prayer," "What the World Needs Now," and, of course, "The Look of Love" - the title cut finds Hazeltine leading the crew through a breakneck, Bud Powell-spiked version of one of the composer's biggest hits; no surprise it leaves The Carpenters' in the dust. Further plums include some fine originals like the shifting "Waltzing at Suite One" and "Minor Adjustment," a cunning revamp of "Close to You."


Tardo Hammer
Tardo's Tempo
Sharp Nine
2004

While Hazeltine's strong suits are his stunning facility and heartfelt melodic tact, Tardo Hammer plays more from his gut and his brain. Schooled by Lennie Tristano disciple Sam Mosca, Hammer's bent lines and crooked chords echo Monk as well as Tristano. His exquisite melancholia, however, is pure Monk - filtered through his own experiences, of course. Hammer also shows a far surer grip on the blues than most neo-boppers can muster; check the album's lone original, the dark and creeping "Journey to Liechtenstein." (Plus, the guy has some pluck: who else could call his 1999 debut album Hammer Time and get away with it?) But don't let the dearth of Hammer compositions give you the idea this is just another set of standards. These pieces - Tommy Flanagan's "Minor Mishap," Kenny Dorham's "Philly Twist," the Mabel Wayne lullaby "Little Man (You've Had a Busy Day)" - besides being some unexpectedly deep nuggets, are golden testimony to this outfit's method of striving hard to reinvent the jazz repertoire. Look no further than the disc's very beginning, the hitherto forgotten evergreen "Last Time I Saw Paris," which starts with Hammer's amorous, poetic caresses before being swept up by the irresistible swing of bassist Dennis Irwin (a frequent Mose sideman) and drummer Jimmy Wormworth (a veteran of everyone from Johnny Copeland to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross). The latter two are responsible for many of the program's memorable moments, such as Irwin's inward-looking solo on the Dizzy/Sarah number "I Waited For You," or Wormworth's around-the-world break on "Russian Lullaby." A record with a welcome raw edge, Tardo's Tempo is also one of the finest illustrations of a fun, relaxed bop session in quite some time. More, please.


David Hazeltine Trio - Close to You

Tracks: 1-Close to You 2-Waltzing at Suite One 3-I'm Old Fashioned 4-You Don't Know What Love Is 5-Barbara 6-Buddy's Tune 7-Blues for P. Wash 8-Minor Adjustment 9-I'll Only Miss her 10-Willow Weep for Me.

Personnel: David Hazeltine - piano; Peter Washington - bass; Joe Farnsworth - drums.

Tardo Hammer - Tardo's Tempo

Tracks: 1-Last Time I Saw Paris 2-I Waited for You 3-Russian Lullaby 4-Philly Twist 5-Journey to Liechtenstein 6-Minor Mishap 7-Very Early 8-Little Man (You've Had a Busy Day) 9-Thelonious.

Personnel: Tardo Hammer - piano; Jimmy Wormworth - drums; Dennis Irwin - bass.


Shop

More Articles

Read Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read New, Notable and Nearly Missed Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas Multiple Reviews Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas
by Doug Collette
Published: January 14, 2017
Read Weekertoft Hits Its Stride… Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio Multiple Reviews Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 4, 2017
Read 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon Multiple Reviews 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 3, 2017
Read "NendoDango Records: Reinventing Tradition" Multiple Reviews NendoDango Records: Reinventing Tradition
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 6, 2016
Read "Paul G. Smyth: Weekertoft downloads" Multiple Reviews Paul G. Smyth: Weekertoft downloads
by John Eyles
Published: September 24, 2016
Read "Another Timbre’s Violin +1 Series" Multiple Reviews Another Timbre’s Violin +1 Series
by John Eyles
Published: June 9, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!