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David Hazeltine: Modern Standards

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Modern Standards reminds me of some of my favorite piano trios of the past: Bill Evans, Ramsey Lewis, Marian McPartland and Wynton Kelly. The performances are neat and mood- setting, with arrangements sprinkled with unison piano-and-bass figures and crisp drum fills. Harmonically, David Hazeltine evokes Evans, especially on “Moment to Moment” and “A Time for Love.” His single lines flow. Bassist David Williams keeps impeccable time, his tone broad or nimble as called for. Drummer Joe Farnsworth maintains a tasteful tattoo. The effect of this trio is one of understatement, of things implied, of feelings valued and expressed artfully and subtly. Listen.

The sextet One for All exhibits a Jazz Messengers-like authority these days, a testimony to its steady personnel, above-average charts and mastery of hard bop. Although there’s no focal leader like the Messengers’ Art Blakey, the ensemble has achieved an admirable day-in, day-out personality, and all the players-tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth-can cook without any hint of awkwardness. The program on Blueslike includes Coltrane’s “Naima” and “Giant Steps,” three American Songbook standards and three originals. The ensemble work and solos feel good-solid rhythm (Washington’s bass walk is exemplary), focused solo statements, memorable tones (dig Davis’ J.J. Johnson- and Curtis Fuller-like sound) and attention to ensemble details such as dynamics and phrasing.

Recorded in 2002 at the New York City club Smoke, Full House’s Champagne Taste mines the electronic jazz-funk vein. Codified since the days of Bitches Brew, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters, et al., the genre-as represented by this bright quintet, anyway-has matured. There’s plenty of appealing jazz work here. Solos by Rotondi (sounding at times like the brash, young Freddie Hubbard), guitarist Greg Skaff and electric pianist and organist Hazeltine build on tried and true jazz tradition (in terms of linear development, harmonic approaches and rhythmic liveliness). Bassist Barak Mori and drummer Joe Strasser provide the funky undercurrent.

The group funkifies the standards “Love for Sale” and “Out of This World,” embracing electronically enhanced trumpet and guitar sounds, open arrangements, and a funk beat. “Reasons” suggests Miles Davis’ ’80s pop sound. Skaff’s “Pound Cake” is a slow, bluesy chart that plots where jazz, blues, funk and electronics meet.