DAVID HAZELTINE, The Time is Now (Smoke Sessions Records, 2018)
PERSONNEL: David Hazeltine (piano); Ron Carter (bass); Al Foster (drums)
- The Time is Now
- The Odd Couple
- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
- Cabin in the Sky
- Blues for Eddie
- Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
- When I’m Here with You
- The Parlayer
- In a Sentimental Mood
- Muse of Montgomery
David Hazeltine is a testament to good taste. With his latest album, The Time is Now, Hazeltine manages to evoke memories of the best 60s post-bop while maintaining and displaying his own voice on the piano. Comparisons to other keyboardists of that era are completely unnecessary.
It would be a lie to say Hazeltine’s rhythm section of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Al Foster (both Miles Davis alums) didn’t go a long way toward this album’s exploration. You might show up for the rhythm section, but you’ll stay for the band’s overall quality and skill set.
The group’s overall tone rarely rises above that of a casual conversation, perfect for this selection of originals, standards, and a semi-surprising pop tune. Hazeltine takes the band through strides that make each song his own while maintaining the familiarity of the tune at hand, the true mark of a jazz musician.
After opening with the title track, Hazeltine does a marvelous take on the theme from Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” written by Neal Hefti and Sammy Cahn. The tune was never all that raucous, but the level of “chill” achieved here is most welcome and pleasant. Like everything else on the album, this is the perfect music for a cool late-night jazz club or a quiet dinner at home. The same could be said for “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” the record’s third tune. The surprise pop song is James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” If a non-Taylor fan can appreciate a tune like this, imagine what an enthusiast might feel! Hazeltine and company also do a nice turn on Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.”
This is not to downplay Hazeltine’s originals. The fiery (yet still slightly understated) “Signals” is probably the highlight of a rather impressive batch of original compositions. Of particular enjoyment is Foster’s drum solo, a rare occurrence on this album. It would be easy for both the drummer and Carter to flex their legendary jazz muscles. Instead, they choose to support their leader with grace and class, taking nothing away from the piano’s warm tone.
Anyone who has been on the fence or unaware of David Hazeltine would do well to heed the album’s title. The time, indeed, is now for a deep examination of a talented musician.
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