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Sir Roland Hanna: Colors From A Giant's Kit

Dan Bilawsky By

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When an artist passes on, the true fans mourn and the record companies often search through their vaults to try to capitalize on their passing. This often results in hastily compiled collections of music, or the surfacing of sub-par recordings that weren't released for obvious reasons when the artist was still around. That's not the case with this top-shelf solo recording from Sir Roland Hanna. Shortly before his death, the pianist had entered into a fruitful recording partnership with Bill Sorin—a former student and longtime fan—who founded IPO recordings and launched the label with Hanna's Everything I Love (IPO, 2002).

While this new chapter in Hanna's recording career was cut short when the piano giant was felled by a fatal heart attack in November of 2002, his other sessions for IPO are firm reminders of his sublime artistry and wide-ranging skills as a pianist, composer and interpreter of music of all kinds. Tributaries —Reflections On Tommy Flanagan (IPO, 2002) and I've Got A Right To Sing The Blues—Songs Of Harold Arlen immediately followed on the heels of Everything I Love, but it took eight years for Colors From A Giant's Kit to arrive. It was worth the wait.

Hanna's relationship with the piano is a complex one but, unlike another former Charles Mingus-associated pianist, Jaki Byard—who is also receiving a lot of attention for posthumously released solo piano outings—it remains widely accessible at all times and rooted in the promise of melody. Hanna can engage the instrument with heavy handed chordal stomps ("Colors From A Giant's Kit") and flowery, flowing gestures of beauty ("My Romance"). He shows an obvious affection for Ellingtonia of all kinds, as he delivers a pair of Billy Strayhorn standards ("Lush Life" and "Chelsea Bridge") and an energetic take on Duke Ellington's own "In A Mellow Tone," which is anything but mellow. The music of John Coltrane also plays an important part here, as Hanna takes on two different sides of the late saxophonist's musical personality. "Moment's Notice" moves with precision and energy, while "Naima" gorgeously wafts through the air.

While the majority of the program is given up to standards of all shapes and sizes, Hanna touches on his own compositional legacy with five of his own pieces, ranging from sweeping, sad beauties ("Natalie Rosanne") to ragtime coated with an Eastern European sound. The fourteen-track program is capped off with a take on "Cherokee" that serves as a lesson in tempo revision. Hanna proves that Ray Noble's classic doesn't have to fly fast at all times.

The colors from this piano giant's kit cover the entire spectrum, from bold to bright, and this album continues to paint Hanna as the true genius that he was.

Track Listing: Colors From A Giant's Kit; Natalie Rosanne; A Story, Often Told But Seldom Heard; Robbin's Nest; My Romance; Blues; 'Cello; Moment's Notice; Lush Life; 20th Century Rag; Naima; Chelsea Bridge; In A Mellow Tone; Cherokee.

Personnel: Sir Roland Hanna: piano.

Title: Colors From A Giant's Kit | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: IPO Recordings

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