Max Haymer: Whirlwind: Live at Sam First

Edward Blanco By

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Max Haymer: Whirlwind: Live at Sam First
Los Angeles pianist and composer Max Haymer has been a busy man this past decade, touring as a longtime member of Arturo Sandoval's band, leading his own group and performing as an accompanist to singer Jane Monheit. Accordingly, Whirlwind: Live at Sam First is Haymer's first album since Pickpocket Witness (CD Baby, 2008) twelve years ago. Recorded live in June, 2019 at the Sam First club near the LA airport, the music is swinging, powerful and highly energetic.

Joined by bassist David Robaire and drummer Dan Schnelle, this is one formidable piano trio that packs a punch. Haymer adopts an aggressive and dominant approach to the music which, together with Robaire's dynamic bass lines and Schnelle's pounding drums, combine to push these musical winds to hurricane force.

On tap here are nine tunes bookended by the beginning "So in Love" and the finale piece "Love for Sale"—two Cole Porter compositions that have never sounded so good. The only other standard presented is the Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash classic "Speak Low," a slow-paced bolero which is nine-minutes plus of pure pleasure featuring a mellow leader in the beginning but, reveals a sophisticated and muscular piano man by tune's end.

The remaining repertoire comprises Haymer originals including the moving title track, essentially a jazz waltz that eventually catches a little fire featuring a wonderful bass solo and delicate key strokes from the leader. Drawing from Herbie Hancock's "Actual Proof and Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil," the original "Proof of Evil," is a barnburner highlighting the pianist's talents on the instrument.

Haymer's "Welcoming" is tribute piece celebrating the birth of his first daughter and accordingly, is penned as a warm ballad and is definitely one the soft spots of the recording. The other gentle breeze here is "Passed Time," a composition he wrote while on tour with trumpeter Sandoval.

In summation, Whirlwind is truly engaging musical statement from one of the finest pianists on the planet. The fact that it is a live recording makes it a bit more entertaining as audience participation is an evident appreciation for the performance. Let's hope Max Haymer dose not wait another decade before delivering another stunning album.

Track Listing

So in Love; Whirlwind; Proof of Evil; Speak Low; Gold Plated Dime; Welcoming; Killing Time; Passed Time; Love for Sale


Max Haymer: piano; David Robaire: bass; Dan Schnelle: drums.

Album information

Title: Whirlwind: Live at Sam First | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Emerald City Records

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