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John Beasley: Letter to Herbie

Jim Santella By

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Herbie Hancock has given the jazz world numerous song memories that linger. Through this tribute album, pianist John Beasley honors the composer with innovative arrangements of his compositions, all with the kind of interplay that Hancock has always enjoyed in performance. Here, pianist Beasley, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts enjoy a thorough workout from the music.

As the pianist and his crew get on board, most of the program swings hard or drives incessantly. There's nothing like a good composition to stir the pot, and "Bedtime Voyage" blends two of Hancock's tunes for an excursion that pushes buoyantly. Using tension and repose in a fruitful balance, the quintet gives this arrangement a lovely sheen. Roy Hargrove's trumpet sounds better than it has in years.

"Diana" differs from the rest of the program with its slow, ballad air and its sensual beauty. Here, the trio goes for a pure treatment, with an emphasis on the way Hancock's music can draw from within. As McBride and Beasley announce their dreams casually with deep feeling, the song fills with a loving heart.

The pianist, for his part, tosses off arpeggios and glissandi with a casual air as he and his musical partners honor the music with respect. Quite often, it's the music that makes a session; the artists merely interpret without going too far overboard. That's the case here as Beasley and his team take on some of the best music written, and honor a legendary man through their well-crafted performance.

Track Listing: 4 A.M.; Bedtime Voyage; Chan's Song; Three Finger Snap; The Naked Camera; Eye of the Hurricane; Diana; Hear and Now; Still Time; Vein Melter.

Personnel: John Beasley: piano; Christian McBride: double bass; Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums; Roy Hargrove: trumpet (2, 5, 6, 10); Steve Tavaglione: flute (2), bass clarinet (5); Luis Conte: percussion (3); Michael O'Neal: guitar (5).

Title: Letter To Herbie | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Resonance Records

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