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It's clear that, whether he's interpreting his own tunes or someone else's, Hayes Greenfield deeply respects the classics. This pair of recent releases shows his proficiency as a composer and saxophonist and the way that his writing and playing style recalls the great songs and jazzmen of the glorious past.
Because of You! is a quartet with pianist Neal Kirkwood, Ed Schuller on bass and his brother George on drums. Greenfield's strong alto soars on the mid-tempo "For Bi Bi , building his statements quickly into the strident upper register. Greenfield scales the high notes right at the outset of the minor key "Itching For a Niche . Bassist Schuller's plucked solo shows that he's a graduate of the Slam Stewart school as he sings along with what he plays. The title tune is an elegant ballad that Greenfield shares with Kirkwood, whose brief but touching solo is excellent. The quicksilver "Ornettesism scampers along, with Greenfield on top of the harmonic mountain once again and Kirkwood wreaking pleasant havoc on the keys as the brothers Schuller race alongside. "I Can't Make You Love Me is another fine example of a mid-tempo, classically-styled song that features another fine solo by Kirkwood. Greenfield plays "Passing Through with brooding Coltrane overtones and Kirkwood's contribution on "Ambivalence is anything but, as he again works with thoughtful reckless abandon. The beautifully elegiac "Goodbye Song rounds out a fine collection of Greenfield originals, all possible standards in the making.
Thelonious Monk is the focus of Duo + One, where Greenfield teams with drummer Rashied Ali and bassist Don Pate. While the band's takes on "Ask Me Now and "Evidence are close to the originals, their version of "Well You Needn't is far from it, with strong free jazz sensibilities throughout, spurred by Greenfield's spirited sopranino and outstanding playing by Pate and Ali. Greenfield returns to alto for "Epistrophy and the trio truly makes Monk swing. Pate has another fine plucked solo here and Ali's spot cleverly echoes the theme with clear structure and logic. Greenfield puts an inventive spin on "Giant Steps by beginning the song in duo with Ali and then working back to the theme. The final tune on the disc is the appropriately-titled "Free , a name that underscores the spirit of the disc.
Tracks and Personnel
Because of You!
Tracks: For Bi Bi; Itching for a Niche; Because of You; Ornettesism; Lover to You; I Can't Make You Love Me; Passing Through; Ambivalence; Mr. Widget; Goodbye Song.
Personnel: Hayes Greenfield: alto saxophone; Neal Kirkwood: piano; Ed Schuller: bass; George Schuller: drums.
Duo + One
Tracks: I Do; Secret Love; Ask Me Now; Blues; Evidence; Well You Needn't; Ugly Beauty; Epistrophy; Giant Steps; Free.
Personnel: Rashied Ali: drums; Hayes Greenfield: alto and sopranino saxophones; Don Pate: bass.
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.