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Jeff Hackworth: The Heart of the Matter

Edward Blanco By

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Veteran tenor saxophonist Jeff Hackworth doesn't fool around much on his most recent musical project and gets right to The Heart of The Matter, unveiling his seventh album as leader and follow up to his previous critically-acclaimed Soul To Go! (Big Bridge Music, 2014). Employing a muscular approach to the saxophone, Hackworth's tenor voice is pronounced here leaving little doubt that one is in for a bit of tenor madness from one of the finest reed men around. Containing four originals and fresh new treatments of five well-known standards, the music is contemporary straight ahead with a touch of soul, blues, burners and ballads all in one nice musical package that goes right to the heart.

A mainstay of New York's vibrant jazz scene, Hackworth naturally selects a group of top notch New York City sidemen to accompany him on this album but eschews the standard bass and the piano instruments in lieu of the organ and guitar for a distinctive rhythm section. Featured here are drummer Vince Ector with guitarist Ed Cherry and organist Kyle Koehler rounding out the cast of this non-standard, different, stylish and very formidable quartet. Ector's rolling drum solo intro on Hackworth's original chart "Big Bad Boogaloo" gets the music going on the steamy side with a lively up tempo burner that showcases the more than appreciable chops of the leader.

Floyd Hunt's 1947 composition "Fool That I Am," is the first ballad performed here with Hackworth doing a marvelous job on one soulful tenor solo after another with one of the finest version of the standard recorded to date. The magic continues on the following Arlen/Mercer classic "That Old Black Magic," featuring all of the bandmates on separate solos in one fine swinging rendition of the standard. The original "September Song" is somewhat special for Hackworth as he states "I like to tell a story when I improvise and this song...sets the stage..." and so this one certainly does, telling a tale of great music.

The saxophonist pays homage to "The Sugar Man" or "Mr. T" as he was better known, the late great Stanley Turrentine would have been more than pleased with Hackworth's "Sweat Tea" and the bluesy title track, both tunes displaying superb examples of tenor voicings Mr. T would have identified with. The set begins to close on an often overlooked composition by the great Duke Ellington with Hackworth and crew delivering a superb rendition of "Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool," then finalizing the album on a delicate embrace of the gorgeous "Tres Palabras."

Tenorist Jeff Hackworth makes it quite clear that The Heart of the Matter, is providing good music, and on that account, Hackworth and crew craft another delicious statement worth repeated spins and more serious attention, well done!

Track Listing: Big Bad Boogaloo; Fool That I Am; That Old Black Magic; 3rd Avenue Blues; September Song; Sweet Tea; The Heart of the Matter; Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool; Tres Palabras.

Personnel: Jeff Hackworth: tenor saxophone; Ed Cherry: guitar; Kyle Koehler: organ; Vince Ector: drums.

Title: The Heart of the Matter | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Big Bridge Music

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