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Peter Hand: Blue Topaz


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Peter Hand: Blue Topaz
Peter Hand has a hand in almost everything on Blue Topaz, playing masterful guitar, writing seven of the album's ten engaging numbers and arranging all of them. He also spliced together a pair of blue-chip ensembles for his first small-group recording after three well-received big-band albums, and invited his longtime friend—and legendary tenor saxophonist—Houston Person to sit in on two tracks. Person had also guested on one of the guitarist's big-band recordings, Out of Hand (2014).

Hand's hand-picked sextets remain the same save for the two numbers ("One for My Baby" and Stevie Wonder's "Lately") on which Person performs, wherein pianist David Janeway replaces James Weidman who could not make the second of the album's two recording dates. Trumpeter Eddie Allen and tenor saxophonist Don Braden complete the front line, with bassist Harvie S and drummer Steve Johns ably handling the rhythm.

The bustling "Hand-Me-Down Blues" proves a splendid opener, showcasing every member of the ensemble and embracing strong solos by Hand, Allen and Braden. "Cash or Charge" offers more of the same, with Harvie S' walking bass leading to emphatic statements by Braden and Weidman. Braden's tenor is impressive on every number, his soprano and flute superb on the dreamy "Bittersweet Morning" and rhythmic "Pedro's Samba," respectively. Person takes the reins on "One for My Baby," rendered in a calm and soulful groove, which leads to Freddie Hubbard's light-hearted "Little Sunflower" and Hand's easygoing "Rosalyn," written for his wife. Hand, Allen and Braden are the soloists on "Little Sunflower," Allen (muted), Hand, Weidman and Harvie S on "Rosalyn."

The fondness for Latin in Hand's heart resurfaces on the laid-back bossa "Blue Topaz" (crisp solos by Allen, Weidman and the leader), after which Person returns to burnish the even-tempered "Lately" before the ensemble closes on a pleasurable note with Hand's sunny swinger, "Curioso." Even though the group remains essentially unchanged, Hand's perceptive and luminous charts lend as much color and variety as one could need. Hand is a top notch soloist, as are Allen, Braden and the rest. Person's guest appearances do not hurt the cause either. Hand's big-band albums have been excellent; Blue Topaz may lack that sort of power but swings for the fences and connects solidly time after time.

Track Listing

Hand-Me-Down Blues; Cash or Charge; Bittersweet Morning; Pedro’s Samba; One for My Baby; Little Sunflower; Rosalyn; Blue Topaz; Lately; Curioso.


Peter Hand
Eddie Allen
Don Braden
saxophone, tenor
Harvie S
bass, acoustic
Houston Person
saxophone, tenor

Album information

Title: Blue Topaz | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Whaling City Sound

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