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Tardo Hammer: Hammer Time

C. Andrew Hovan By

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Well, according to the promotional advertising that accompanies this release, Tardo Hammer is known around the New York area as one of the underground greats of bebop piano. After a few spins of this disc, his maiden voyage, one would be hard pressed to suggest that the accolades were mere hype. This pianist is indeed a mature and highly-skilled player with a sound that swings mightily. In fact, he plays with a dexterity and grace that covers many moods and makes it all sound so easy. Ah, another sign of great talent! Hammer, at age 41, has spent the last few decades teaching in the New York area and gigging with the likes of Junior Cook, Johnny Griffin, and Art Farmer. That he has had to wait this long for his own debut is simply inexplicable.

Hammer's associates here are two gentleman that seem to be making a lot of the recent piano trio dates being cut at Rudy Van Gelder's studio, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Leroy Williams. The trio operates as one well-oiled machine and Van Gelder has captured each instrument with the stunning clarity that only he is known for. As for the repertoire, it should come to no surprise that Monk, Dameron, and Powell are heard here. However, bebop is not all that this pianist is about, as the mellifluous opening to Mancini's "Moment to Moment" reveals. It's no wonder that vocalists such as Abbey Lincoln and Chris Connor have found Hammer's accompaniment to be so rewarding. In addition, we get two of Hammer's own tunes, along with the pianist's tasty arrangements provided for each standard. The closing "You Leave Me Breathless" turns out to be an apt choice, as one gets the impression of experiencing a whole lot of piano over the disc's generous 67-minute duration.


Track Listing: Gnid, No Problem, Reflections, Ski Ball, Moment to Moment, I Concentrate on You, Plan B, Time, Celia, You Leave Me Breathless

Personnel: Tardo Hammer, piano; Dennis Irwin, bass; Leroy Williams, drums

Title: Hammer Time | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Sharp Nine Records


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