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Kevin Hays opens For Heaven's Sake with a bit of solo piano: an introspective, reverent-sounding, church-like interlude. Then bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Bill Stewart slip into the sound and the trio winds into tenor saxophone great Sonny Rollins' "Sonny Moon for Two," cranking up the intensity/extroversion factor for five minutes, and Weiss takes a solo in front of Stewart's implacable timekeeping and Hays' spare, sparkling comping. It's a well-chosen, beautifully executed opener for a set of familiar jazz standards. This group of tunes includes the much-covered Sam Rivers composition "Beatrice"; Wayne Shorter's "Lady Day"; Burke and Van Heusen's "It Could Happen to You"; and Ellington's "Caravan."
Kevin Hays signed with Blue Note in 1994 and released three albums on the legendary jazz label, including the glowingly reviewed Andalusia (1997), which featured Ron Carter on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. The young pianist has also played in Rollins' band and guitarist John Scofield's "Quiet" band.
With For Heaven's Sake, Hays and his bandmates craft a snappy and insistent forward momentum, wrapped around the leader's slightly idiosyncratic piano style, which mixes straightforward melodic beauty with a Hampton Hawes-like angularity. The result is an appealingly differentbut still reverenttake on some nicely chosen jazz standards.