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Although he was into his forties before the critical notices and accolades started to come; pianist David Hazeltine hasn’t wasted any time since then in actively putting forth his creative muse. As a member of One For All, Hazeltine has held a prominent place in the fashionable ensemble due to his charismatic writing. Furthermore, his catalogs for Sharp Nine, Criss Cross, and Venus have swelled recently with some of the finest contemporary fare of current vintage.
Good-Hearted People is Hazeltine’s fourth set for Criss Cross to date and is easily distinguished from past efforts due to the interesting front line. While saxophone-trumpet leads have been the norm for decades, the pairing of Steve Davis’ trombone with Jim Snidero’s alto sax is a pleasing one even if a bit out of the ordinary. The rhythm section too speaks its own original message, with bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Tony Reedus on board.
Although Hazeltine’s original voicings are to be found throughout, the set includes only two of his originals. “Blueslike” gets things underway with a rollicking vamp and the rich tonality of the lead horns seems instantly attractive. “Demasiado Dulce” contains a wistful melody adrift on a bossa beat and with an exotic touch added by Snidero’s flute. Steve Davis contributes the title track and “Cozytine” and both are chock-a-block full of the kind of twists and turns that mark Davis as one of the most original mainstream writers since Wayne Shorter. Equally memorable are Jim Snidero’s “Caliente Blues” and a reharmonized “Imagination” that moves with a joie de vivre that is quite unlike any version we’ve heard before.
Serving as some extra spice, two tracks feature an up and coming Jesse Van Ruller, with Denny Zeitlin’s “Quiet Now” serving as a gorgeous feature for the Dutch guitar whiz. These highlights round out another solid entry from a gentleman who promises to be the Hank Jones or Tommy Flanagan of his generation.