It's only about half way through the year, but this one proves to be strong contender for one of the best releases of 1999. The little label that could out of Westfield, New Jersey keeps cranking out some vigorous and very substantial music and so it should come to no surprise that they would be behind this very imaginative endeavor. Of the two front men here, vibraphonist Joe Locke probably carries more name recognition. He's recently recorded a string of critically-acclaimed and commercially-viable dates for Fantasy and is one of the most tasteful vibes players of his generation. Pianist Hazeltine is less known but has released two previous dates as a leader for Sharp Nine, one for Criss Cross Jazz, and is a vital member of the cooperative unit One For All that features tenor phenom Eric Alexander.
Mutual Admiration Society is an apt title for this session. It is clear that the music presented came from a meeting of the minds between Locke and Hazeltine. Among a few well-chosen standards, there are three originals by Locke and two by Hazeltine, with the latter providing the arrangements throughout. It is no exaggeration to state that as superb as his pianistic talents are, Hazeltine's arranging and composing skills put him in a league of his own. One need look no farther than the album's centerpiece, Burt Bacharach's "I Say a Little Prayer." The slow and relaxed treatment, complete with altered harmonies, is one of the prettiest and most profound things heard in recent memory. Hazeltine also has mastered a way with breaking up the conventional swing beat. He does this by using vamps, repeated ostinatos in the bass, and various other methods that catch the ear and make this music so rewarding even after countless listens.
Locke is also one hell of a musician. His opening "K-Man's Crew" bristles with excitement and announces that this session will proceed far removed from your typical hard bop fare. A thoroughly gorgeous and memorable line, his "Diamonds Remain" is a touching tribute to the late Don Grolnick and one of the highlights of the session. It should also be told that all of this couldn't be carried out successfully without the exemplary contributions of bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Billy Drummond. Each man is responsive and willing to embellish whatever mood is established by the front line partners. Drummond, in particular, has become a modern day Elvin Jones in that he plays with such musical conviction and strength and yet also manages to tailor his dynamics to each situation he finds himself involved in. We will certainly being hearing more from him because he has already become a master in every sense of the word.
Nothing further really needs to be stated because, like so much of the significant and quintessential jazz that we have on tape, the magic of this set really defies written description and evaluation. It really needs to be heard to be appreciated. Anyone want to join me in becoming a member of this mutual admiration society?
Track Listing: K-Man's Crew, I Say a Little Prayer, Can We Talk?, The Haze Factor, Tears in Her Heart, Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year, Diamonds Remain, For All We Know
Personnel: Joe Locke, vibes; David Hazeltine, piano; Essiet Essiet, bass; Billy Drummond, drums
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.