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David Hazeltine: The Classic Trio

Joel Roberts By

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If you don't know the name David Hazeltine, you should. He is flat out one of the finest pianists working today. And his new album, featuring an impeccable rhythm section of Louis Hayes and Peter Washington, is a tour de force for his versatile skills as instrumentalist and composer.

As the album title suggests, Hazeltine is not looking to break any new stylistic ground here. Rather, he is working within, and extending, the great piano trio tradition pioneered by the likes of Art Tatum, Nat King Cole, Oscar Peterson, and Bill Evans. At its best, Hazeltine's group combines the hard swing of Peterson's trios with the modernism and lyricism of Evans'.

In addition to four very strong Hazeltine originals, the group tackles challenging compositions by piano masters Bud Powell and Cedar Walton, and offers fresh takes on standards like "You Make Me Feel So Young" and "These Foolish Things." The rapport and spontaneity between Hazeltine, Washington, and Hayes, one of the great hard bop drummers, is superb. Although he has yet to develop a particularly distinctive personality at the piano, Hazeltine has successfully synthesized the lessons of his modern jazz piano predecessors. This terrifically-talented pianist deserves major attention.


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