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A debut recording is always interesting. John Hines’ first is by and large a good debut, except for a couple of awkward moments where he gets heavy handed and congeals his playing. This happens on “In a Sentimental Mood,” which is weighed down by the tack he takes. Sentiment need not be down in the dumps. And on “Central Park West,” his first solo does not ignite the thread. It is now time for the goodies.
The blues come with “Hard Times.” Hines is propulsive and energetic as he lends the bounce to his lines before engaging in easy flowing interlock with the organ of Michael Pagan. When he switches to piano, Pagan opens up the harmonic welt of the tune, dancing round the edges and dipping into the melody to pull out some engaging moments. There is more blues when it comes time for “Kickin’ Back,” a spirited romp with Hines leading the charge, Rob Ward on drums adding to the drive with crisp accents.
There is an innate joy in the music when it comes to “I Could Write A Song.” Hines is in an appropriately animated frame, a mood that is complemented by Hugh Ragin on trumpet, a flowing stream of captivating ideas. Ragin’s tone is fat and nicely rounded as he takes to the flugelhorn for the ballad “More Than A Friend." His reading of the theme and the opening of the path is gorgeous. Hines and then Pagan slip right into that emotional strain and in tandem turn in a memorable performance.