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Nick Hempton: The Business

Dan Bilawsky By

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The workaday details of the business world don't really relate to jazz very much. Boring meetings, piles of paperwork, and endless conference calls have little to do with the in-the-moment magic that surrounds this music, but that doesn't mean that jazz musicians don't know how to get down to business when the tape is rolling.

For his Posi-Tone debut, saxophonist Nick Hempton brought his working band back into the studio, and they dive right into the music from the get-go. Hempton immediately establishes himself as a saxophonist with a bold voice, capable of comfortably moving from Brazilian waters at high tide ("Flapjacks In Belo"), to swing-based music ("Art Is In The Groove"), to old school balladry of a smoky nature ("Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You"), all within a three-song span.

As the saxophonist moves from piece to piece and style to style, he proves to be somewhat of a tonal chameleon, capable of dressing up his own sound with different drapery that fits the decor of the room he might happen to be in at that moment. When the lights are low and the room is dark, his tone has a breathy bouquet, giving off an irresistibly seductive aroma, but he doesn't dwell in this space. In other places, he simply radiates the bright energy of a song through his horn.

As of the release of this recording, Hempton's quartet has been working together for nearly six years, but it clearly hasn't become complacent during its time together. Hempton's compositions continually push the band, and the presence of guitarist Yotam Silberstein on several tracks helps broaden its aural horizons. Silberstein adds sensational solo work to "Art Is In The Groove," and brings out the punchy personality within Hempton's music elsewhere.

Drummer Dan Aran serves as the navigator for the band, charting a course that takes them from hi-hat driven rock ("Cold Spring Fever") to swing of all speeds and manners ("Carry On Up The Blues" and "From Bechet, Byas And Fats"), with other stops along the way, but he's only one member of this able-bodied crew. Bassist Marco Panascia provides the perfect bottom-end movement, from walking bass lines to percolating solos, in every piece, while pianist Art Hirahara is in prime form, whether setting the ball in motion with a unique chordal statement delivered in metronomic fashion ("Not Here For A Haircut") or soloing over a delightfully waltzing beat ("The Wading Game").

Hempton exhibits sterling technique, soloing of a tasteful-meets-tasty nature, and a compositional acuity that few possess, making this record sound more like pleasure than business.

Track Listing: Flapjacks In Belo; Art Is In The Groove; Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You; Press One For Bupkis; From Bechet, Byas, And Fats; Encounter At E; Cold Spring Fever; Not Here For A Haircut; The Wading Game; Carry On Up The Blues.

Personnel: Nick Hempton: saxophones; Art Hirahara: piano; Marco Panascia: bass; Dan Aran: drums; Yotam Silberstein: guitar (2, 7, 10).

Title: The Business | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records


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