It’s easy to Stay Tuned when one hears Jazz as handsomely crafted as that played by pianist Gerard Hagen, his trio and guests — tenor Chuck Manning, guitarist Larry Koonse and bassist Henry Franklin. This is one of those special albums on which every component slides neatly into place and everyone has his chance to shine. Having said that, it should be noted that there is nothing here that can be construed as setting Hagen and his companions apart from many another group whose members are as enthusiastic and talented as they. In other words, there are no transcendent voices here; everyone is simply quite good at what he does, which entails softening his voice when required and improvising at a consistently high level. Hagen, bassist Domenic Genova and drummer Jerry Kalaf (who wrote “Bass [and Tenor] Tune” and “Bailing Out”) have been playing together for about four years and have developed a close rapport that encourages ease of movement within an orderly framework. Hagen sidesteps monotony by adding Larry Koonse’s bracing guitar on four selections, Chuck Manning’s supple tenor sax on three others. Bassist Henry Franklin, who sat in for Genova during a recent trio gig in San Francisco, does the same on Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” and the Howard Dietz / Arthur Schwartz standard “Alone Together.” The trio is “alone together” on three numbers, “Sweet and Lovely,” “Beautiful Love” and a charmingly graceful reading of Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring.” Koonse adds spice whenever he appears, especially on the sunny opener, Gary Foster’s “Warne–ing,” and is a paragon of mellow swing on Johnny Burke / Jimmy van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love.” Hagen, a romanticist with a mean right hand, is never less than impressive, while Kalaf and Genova (or Franklin) offer a strong rhythmic backbone on which to maneuver. A well–cooked serving of trio Jazz (with tasty side dishes) that’s a pleasure to digest.
Contact:Sea Breeze Records, P.O. Box 1910, Pismo Beach, CA 93448–1910. Phone 818–489–2055.
Gerard Hagen, piano; Domenic Genova, bass; Jerry Kalaf, drums. Special guests
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