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Nick Hempton: Night Owl

Dan Bilawsky By

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If jazz belongs to a single breed of believers, it would have to go to the night owls. Those loyalists who live a nocturnal existence—the listeners. sitting at the bar while they drink in their surroundings, and the performers, playing into the wee small hours in basement hideaways—are the heartbeat of this music, and saxophonist Nick Hempton knows it.

Having spent many an evening in clubs and corner bars, Hempton is more than qualified to raise his horn in a toast to his fellow nighthawks. And here, on his sixth album, fronting an organ quartet recorded live at GB's Juke Joint, he does just that. Across these nine tracks Hempton delivers a "no BS" form of music that speaks to earthy atmospheres, soulful suggestions and good-time grooves associated with let-it-all-hang-out, late-night sessions.

This album, appropriately enough, opens with the title track—a shuffling winner wrapped in blue. Then the peppy "I Remember Milady's" arrives, giving guitarist Peter Bernstein, the leader himself, and organist Kyle Koehler a chance to work the sly-turned-peppy changes. Beyond that point, the highlight reel includes a lively "After You've Gone" where these spry souls take turns darting around with an eye on thematic threads; an appropriately painted, pathos-fueled "I'm A Fool To Want You" underscored by drummer Fukushi Tainaka's gentle tom groove; a swaggering "Corner Bistro" with a '70s throwback vibe; and a pleasantly drifting take on Duke Ellington's "It Shouldn't Happen To A Dream."

Nobody here is presenting a false narrative on the scene, putting on airs or playing toward over-intellectualized ideals. This is how it is, and this what it is, plain and simple. When the lights go down, the music comes out. Just soak it all in and rejoice in that act.

Track Listing: Night Owl; I Remember Milady's; After You've Gone I'm A Fool To Want You; 10st Street Turnaround; Corner Bistro; It Shouldn't Happen To A Dream; Listen Hard, Speak Easy; Macao Mood.

Personnel: Nick Hempton: saxophones; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Kyle Koehler: Hammond B3 organ; Fukushi Tainaka: drums.

Title: Night Owl | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Self Produced

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