Look Stop & Listen, Tardo Hammer's fourth release as a leader, is subtitled The Music of Tadd Dameron. It's the antithesis of a concept record, in which the music takes a backseat to marketing and promotion. Instead of a parade of guest stars, all Hammer needs is bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth to launch a rigorous, thoughtful, and brilliantly played set. He's the perfect antidote to the legions of jazz pianists who possess tons of technique yet have little of their own to say about the music. Throughout the ten track recital, it's obvious that he's lived with Dameron's compositions for quite some time.
The record is filled with moments demonstrating Hammer's remarkable clarity of thought and smart execution. "If You Could See Me Now moves from a lovely ballad to Hammer's probing, medium tempo improvisation. Something similar happens during "Smooth as the Wind, when a keen, decisive solo follows an elegant take on the theme.
In Hammer's scheme of things, little things mean a lot: subtle changes in dynamics; a left hand that pokes its way into the path of the right and then suddenly lays back; and use of silence, allowing for commentary by the ever-resourceful Farnsworth. The development of Hammer's solos is continuous, logical and orderly, yet a feeling of discovery is always present. Although he never sounds rushed or particularly busy, his brisk solo on "The Squirrel doesn't let up. The neat parameters of his "Our Delight essay sparkle with sheer exuberance.
Webber and Farnsworth are a superb bass and drums team. They listen to Hammer and assert themselves accordingly. Farnsworth is bold and provocative in conventional terms (Max Roach and Billy Higgins are his primary antecedents), and his every stroke is connected to Hammer and Webber. During Hammer's solos on most of the medium and up-tempo tracks, his snare prods the pianist while the ride cymbal locks in tightly to Webber's walking line. Throughout the head of "Hot House, terse accents emerge from every drum and cymbal, while brief acrobatic fills twist and turn before he abruptly cuts them off.
Focus; Look Stop & Listen; Smooth as the Wind; Dial B for Beauty; The Squirrel; Hot House; Super Jet; If You Could See Me Now; Our Delight; Flossie Lou.
Tardo Hammer: piano; John Webber: bass; Joe Farnsworth: drums.
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