171

Frank Hewitt: Out of the Clear Black Sky

By

Sign in to view read count
Frank Hewitt: Out of the Clear Black Sky Because jazz is so fundamentally wound up in its own history, it can often be difficult for fans to accept a new voice. The canon of jazz players is set in stone—how could there be a great voice that we have overlooked? However, there come times for just such paradigm shifts. Frank Hewitt prompts us to do so.

Out of the Clear Black Sky is the fifth Hewitt album released on Smalls Records, all of which are posthumous. For more than eight years preceding his 2002 death, Hewitt was the house pianist at Smalls Jazz Club in New York. This recording is drawn from two of his Sunday evening sets there in 2000.

There are a number of ways in which Hewitt throws off the typical historical narrative of jazz. Although born in 1935 and a lifelong Harlemite, the only recording of Hewitt released during his 67 years was a single track on the album Jazz Underground: Live at Smalls (Impulse, 1998). Additionally, his aesthetic is founded in the music of his youth: pianists like Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. Hewitt's is a meticulously percussive brand of bebop, often allowing his chords to take on a muddy flavor in the pursuit of rhythmic expression. Later influences are remarkably absent from his technique, and he plays a purer bebop piano than perhaps anyone today except Barry Harris and Hank Jones.

If his playing demands reconsideration, his album warrants rethinking, too. Out of the Clear Black Sky has several tunes that run the risk of sounding hackneyed due to overexposure: "The Girl from Ipanema" and "Misty," which Hewitt plays twice on this disc. However, the performances are absorbing and unique enough to break through the danger of cliche.

On "Misty," Hewitt borrows slightly from Erroll Garner's locked-hands method, making for a degree of traditionalism. However, by neatly doctoring the melody's opening line, he manages to cut through the tune's obviousness with his own voice. Although Jimmy Lovelace's drumming frequently sounds docile, the trio proves capable of dropping into a strong groove, as when they land together on the corners of the form. The second, somewhat truncated version of "Misty" drives a little bit more—bassist Ari Roland feels a little more propulsive here, and Hewitt follows suit.

He also gives other songs a new lease on life. An unprecedented vamp at the beginning of "Girl from Ipanema" augments the song just enough, making it once again a valid vehicle for improvisation. And he disguises "Manteca" by blurring between swing and Afro-Cuban grooves.

In the album's liner notes, producer Luke Haven explores jazz history to seek out some justification for Hewitt's absence from the typical roster of great players. Although he attributes the lacuna to the racist Cabaret Laws that restricted gigging musicians, fundamentally one cannot know why such a strong musician would not receive his due time in the spotlight. The best we can do now is listen to Hewitt and embrace the reconsideration he merits.


Track Listing: Misty; The Girl from Ipanema; This Isn't New; Manteca; Lover; I Married An Angel; Misty.

Personnel: Frank Hewitt: piano; Ari Roland: bass; Jimmy Lovelace: drums.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Smalls Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Love Dance CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Honest Woman CD/LP/Track Review Honest Woman
by James Nadal
Published: February 20, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Punch" CD/LP/Track Review Punch
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 29, 2016
Read "Paris" CD/LP/Track Review Paris
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Groovin’ Hard - Live at the Penthouse 1964 - 1968" CD/LP/Track Review Groovin’ Hard - Live at the Penthouse 1964 - 1968
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 11, 2017
Read "Simplicity" CD/LP/Track Review Simplicity
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 6, 2016
Read "Untitled" CD/LP/Track Review Untitled
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 13, 2016
Read "Smooth Shake" CD/LP/Track Review Smooth Shake
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 3, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!