Not Afraid to Live
One of the overlooked older musicians who made Smalls a second home was the late bebop pianist Frank Hewitt. Working the periphery of the New York jazz scene since the 1950s, Hewitt performed but never recorded with such stalwarts as Howard McGhee and Cecil Payne. Not Afraid to Live (Smalls) is the second posthumous album released since Hewitt's passing in 2002. Hearing Hewitt play isn't cause to rewrite jazz history, but it's as authentic as old-school bop piano gets. With a light touch that tends to recall Barry Harris, Hewitt digs into basic fare ("Green Dolphin Street," "A Night in Tunisia") with delightful, controlled passion. Judiciously paced by drummer Louis Hayes and bassist Ari Roland, Hewitt displays a rhythmic ease, even at advanced tempos, that comes only through experience. A relentless romp on "Just One of Those Things" stands as proof that, although practically unknown, Hewitt was the real deal.