What happens when you put a drummer from Israel, a bassist from Italy, a Japanese-American pianist from Northern California and a saxophonist from Australia all on one recording? An amalgamation of sound, tempered by richly cultured yet solitary experiences, that amounts to the auditory equivalent of life in New York City. On the self-titled debut release of the Nick Hempton Band, saxophonist/composer/arranger Hempton leads his international tour de force on eight mostly original tracks.
The disc opens with Hempton wailing out a few bars reminiscent of John Coltrane on A Love Supreme (Impulse, 1964), while the rest of the band provides the accompaniment. What's most striking about the band's contribution on these few bars (and throughout the disc, for that matter) is that they support Hempton musicallyas the Cabinet does for the President, politically. The President is the Commander-in-Chief, but the members of the Cabinet are intelligent and capable enough to stand as equals, even though their roles almost require that they not be. Instead of trying to match or even outshine Hempton, the other band members pat him on the shoulder (so to speak), and ground him with their intelligence and quality musicianship.
Some of the stand-out tracks on the disc include "The Times," featuring a beautiful opening solo from bassist Marco Panascia; as well as Joe Henderson's "Serenity," Benny Carter's "Lonely Woman," and "I'm a Nurse, I'm an Engineer."
One minor criticism of the disc's opening number, "Get This," is that the opening few bars set such a tone that the switch the song takesfrom Hempton's powerful opening solo to the sing-songy, hum-along melodyis a bit distracting. It's still a really good song, but it might have been more interesting to hear Hempton follow his initial voice through to the end of the song.
The Nick Hempton Band is a welcome addition to the jazz world. With a rock solid line-up and talent to boot, this recording is proof that good music is always in style.
Track Listing: Get This; The Times; Lonely Woman; I'm a Nurse, I'm an Engineer; Serenity; Trivia; The Artful Roger; But Beautiful.
Personnel: Nick Hempton: alto saxophone; Art Hirahara: piano; Marco Panascia: bass; Dan Aran: drums; Jimmy Lategano: vocals (9).