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Pianist Larry Ham's first release as a leader, Carousel (West Village Music, 2007) is notable not only for the quality of the trio's performance but also for Ham's compositions. In 2008 Ham released a fine solo recording, Larry Ham, Just Me, Just You... for Arbors Records. These two CDs suggest that Ham is an extraordinarily accomplished jazz musician who will likely be an influential presence on the mainstream jazz scene for years to come.
In addition to seven Ham originals, Carousel includes five standards. All three musicians, Ham, Lee Hudson (bass), and Tom Melito (drums) are savvy, subtle players who have been playing together for well over a decade. All three are also mainstays in the New York City jazz scene who are beginning to make their mark in the greater world.
The recording opens with a restrained and assured version of "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise." What is notable is the swing feel and cohesion of the trio. Ham stretches out a bit more on the title track, an upbeat, graceful melody that glides above the relaxed interaction of Hudson and Melito. The pianist/composer's emotional range is evident in the contrast between the title track and his original "The Big Balloon." This pensive, moody piece suggests that Ham has studied his Bill Evans and then some.
One of the highlights of this delightful session is the precision and passion of the musicians on another Ham composition "Lullaby." The quicksilver pair of Melito and Ham spark their way through this Latin-tinged melody with Hudson holding the spirited performance together. These are three excellent players having a great time with the music. In short, Carousel is a highly recommended session from a trio that'll hopefully find its way into the studio in the near future.
Track Listing: Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; Carousel; The Big Balloon; Lullaby; What A Difference A Day Made; Lee Rides Again; Where is Linda Now?; All God's Chillun Got Rhythm; Easy Living; Brazilian Coffee; A Fond Farewell; My Funny Valentine.
Personnel: Larry Ham: piano; Lee Hudson: bass; Tom Melito: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.