The Jobim Songbook in New York
This is a pleasant album by a tasteful pianist supported by a solid bassist (Nat Reeves) and a skilled drummer (Joe Farnsworth).
That it is not more is due to several unfortunate factors. Currently, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s music is some of the most frequently covered by jazz musicians. David Hazeltine not only does an entire album of Jobim’s music, he does all the hits: “The Girl from Ipanema,” “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars,” “Wave,” “One Note Samba,” etc. They are wonderful songs, and Hazeltine plays them impeccably, with a harmonic subtlety that makes them softly glow. But the extreme conservatism of his approach brings almost nothing new to them. The similarity of gently swaying tempos and Hazeltine’s light touch makes this album not just mellow, but bland.
The lack of tension and contrast comes from technical choices as well as artistic ones. The pale, vague sound of Chesky recordings, achieved by using only “one very special microphone,” rounds off the corners of this music. The multi-channel SACD version adds some ambience, but still places Hazeltine’s trio just out of reach.