173

Tardo Hammer: Somethin' Special

David A. Orthmann By

Sign in to view read count
A half-century removed from its heyday, and no longer the most influential style or common dialect of the ever-expanding jazz canon, bebop is more often intimated than played in its unalloyed form. For many young musicians bop is not a destination or even a place to linger, but at best a way station en route to finding a more suitable means of expression. In the right hands, however, it is still a vital, living art form. OnSomethin’ Special, his second recording for the Sharp Nine label, pianist Tardo Hammer, along with bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Leroy Williams, thrives within bop’s parameters, playing with artistry and emanating a feeling of elation integral to the finest performances in the idiom.

Hammer’s ability to imbue a well-established style with his own distinctive voice is evident during the opening cut, “John’s Abbey,” a composition by Bud Powell, one of the seminal figures of bebop and a giant of modern jazz piano. After the swing-march rhythms of Williams’ snare drum and tom toms mark off a rapid tempo, the pianist efficiently navigates the jagged yet symmetrical head, then wastes no time in launching his solo. Evincing a touch that is both weighty and agile, Hammer plays with a calculated ferocity, dashing through the harmonic maze of the tune without ever sounding forced, making precision and exactness a part of his animated performance. With a ride cymbal more felt than heard, Williams makes his presence known by abrupt accents on the snare and bass drums, breaking up the rush of Hammer’s playing, and providing incitement as well. For example, at one point, the drummer’s repetitive, three-stroke, drum-to-drum cadence is picked up and repeated several bars later, by the pianist’s left hand chords.

The fierce virtuosity of the trio is tempered with a more relaxed quality during the medium-tempo "Divertimento," one of Hammer’s four original compositions on the disc. For all of its ease, the pianist’s improvisation retains a certain tautness that spikes at the end of the first chorus and then continues to rise and fall. Over the bed of Williams’ smooth brushwork and Hammer’s sparse chords, Irwin plays with humor and conviction, utilizing horn-like phrases that make perfect sense yet elbow the boundaries of the stated pulse.

Hammer’s rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “If I Loved You” is a marvel, the most memorable cut on an altogether laudable disc. Taken at a glacial tempo, his reading of the melody manages to be both stately and pensive, with chords ringing until they fade into silence, and brief, telling single note remarks. A little more airy in tone, Hammer’s solo is filled with significant pauses, but there’s an emotional weight throughout that carries everything to a plaintive conclusion.

On the lighter side, there’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Hammer and his cohorts transform the swaying, easy-going jingle into a burning jazz anthem, in the process reminding us of the American roots of the sport and the music. After utilizing chords to state the familiar tune, the pianist goes on a tear, whipping out bright, single note lines which are nudged by Irwin’s vibrant walking, as well as Williams’ tom tom thwacks and three snare drum strokes that sound like the crack of a bat hitting a baseball. In trading eights and then fours with Hammer, the drummer’s rhythms are dense in texture, cramming sounds into every conceivable space to the point of overflow, and swinging mightily.

Track Listing: John's Abbey; Divertimento; If I Loved You; Somethin' Special; Take Me Out to the Ballgame; You're My Thrill; Lizard Lips; Blues for Philly Joe; Into the Fire; Subterranean.

Personnel: Tardo Hammer--piano; Dennis Irwin--bass; Leroy Williams--drums.

| Record Label: Sharp Nine Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Malnoia CD/LP/Track Review Malnoia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 24, 2017
Read Get 'Em CD/LP/Track Review Get 'Em
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 24, 2017
Read Radioactive Landscapes EP CD/LP/Track Review Radioactive Landscapes EP
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 24, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 24, 2017
Read The Many Minds of Richie Cole CD/LP/Track Review The Many Minds of Richie Cole
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: April 24, 2017
Read LifeCycle CD/LP/Track Review LifeCycle
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 23, 2017
Read "Protean Reality" CD/LP/Track Review Protean Reality
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 24, 2016
Read "Supreme" CD/LP/Track Review Supreme
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "Gold" CD/LP/Track Review Gold
by Jim Olin
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "Times and Tides" CD/LP/Track Review Times and Tides
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 28, 2016
Read "Les Indignés" CD/LP/Track Review Les Indignés
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 3, 2016
Read "Signals" CD/LP/Track Review Signals
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 13, 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!