Tenorist Jeff Hackworth taps late 1960s soul jazz on Night Owl
. The instrumental mix, with Hammond B3, vibraphone and drums, draws a straight line to the traditions of masters like Lou Donaldson
and Big John Patton
. The use of organ, in particular, is a distinctive and tacit embrace of the instrument's ability to make anything sound like it's straight out of that era.
Hackworth is a first-rate soloist., blowing a forceful, fast and exciting solo on "Sideswipe," a variation on Lee Morgan
's "Sidewider" that throws a little danceable boogaloo into the mix. Despite being such a core jazz component, the blues takes some skill to make fresh and distinct without crazily over-blowing, and Hackworth balances that knife-edge like a champ. It's fun, jumping, and utterly evocative of the 1960s vibe that clearly informs this record.
Composition is also on display, with most of Hackworth's originals defined by relaxed groves that take good advantage of the instrumental mix. His melodies on "Innuendo" and "Little Blue" are simple and elegant, even pretty; ballads at their finest, with solos that recall the tasteful qualities of Zoot Sims
Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard's double-comping with organist Radam Schwartz
diffusing some of the B3's overwhelming, wall-of-sound tendenciesappear periodically throughout the album, creating textural interest behind the horn and a great alternative to block piano chords.
Hackworth's selection of tunes for the rest of the record makes an interesting mix. The Doors
"Love Me Two Times" has been considerably altered, while The Boxtops' "I'm Your Puppet" is slowed down: another fine ballad. The choice of material, from a variety of pop and jazz sources, blends well under a unified musical aesthetic.
A busy musician, with several simultaneous projects, it's good to see Hackworth put his own material on the street. With excellent playing, great songwriting and solid arranging, Night Owl
also begs further exploration of his back catalog.