It's not oftenperhaps only Once in a Lifetime
that a big band, from Germany no less, has a chance to record with not one but two of the jazz world's acknowledged master craftsmen, organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The hr Bigband from Frankfurt seized that chance in December '03, and the result is this spectacular album on which DeFrancesco and Hamilton affirm beyond any doubt that they are among the very best at what they do.
The nine persuasive charts were written by the conductor, young Jörg Achim Keller, and the groovy opener, Matty Malneck/Robert Maxwell's "Shangri-La, is tailor-made for DeFrancesco's expressive Hammond B-3. In fact, no mood or tempo daunts the ruling monarch of the organ, who solos marvelously on every number. And if DeFrancesco is comfortable out front, Hamilton is no less so in the background, spurring the ensemble onward with his customary panache and intelligence.
The choice of material is expansive, traversing the spectrum from the aforementioned "Shangri-La to the Marlene Dietrich classic "Falling in Love Again, Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Once I Loved and "Meditation, the too-seldom heard standards "I'm A Fool to Want You and "Everything Happens to Me, Sonny Rollins' bluesy "Sonnymoon for Two and even the Patti Page warhorse, "Tennessee Waltz (played in waltz-time), before closing appropriately with the Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley showstopper, "Once in a Lifetime. DeFrancesco, a natural-born swinger, lays bare his tender and sensitive side on the ballads.
The hr ensemble is more than a mere onlooker at the party, responding with alacrity to Hamilton's guidance while giving DeFrancesco plenty of help in the solo department. Trumpeter Axel Schlosser, tenor Tony Lakatos, trombonist Günter Bollman and soprano Heinz-Dieter Sauerbrun are heard on "Shangri-La, the trombone section on "Falling in Love Again, bassist Thomas Heidepriem on "Sonnymoon, Schlosser (flugel) on "I'm a Fool, Lakatos on "Tennessee Waltz, flutist Harry Petersen on "Meditation. Petersen and Lakatos swap tenor salvos on "Lifetime, on which Hamilton takes his only solo.
In case you were wondering, the "hr stands for Hessischer Rundfunk, but all you need know is that it denotes a world-class big band whose "once in a lifetime encounter with jazz masters DeFrancesco and Hamilton has produced an exemplary and unreservedly recommended album.