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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.

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