Jazz CD Reviews

Tardo Hammer – Simple Pleasure – Cellar Live

A sparkling album that deserves wide recognition.

Published on August 7, 2013

Tardo Hammer – Simple Pleasure – Cellar Live CL032013, 58:14 ****:

(Tardo Hammer – piano; Lee Hudson – acoustic bass; Jimmy Wormworth – drums)

In his JazzWax Blog of September 30, 2007, Marc Myers described Tardo Hammer as follows: “ Hammer 49 (then), is an old soul and knows his way around a keyboard—having played with Lou Donaldson, Bill Hardman, Junior Cook, Annie Ross, Art Farmer…. among others.” Now several years on, Hammer offers a new album in a trio setting, recorded live by Cellar Live in New York City in March 2013 at Klavierhaus Recital Hall and called Simple Pleasure

For the most part Hammer is self-educated on the piano, started playing at five, and was performing professionally when he was fifteen. Such is the unpredictable nature of being a jazz musician that while not generally well-known much beyond the boundaries of New York City, Tardo is a bebop-oriented player along the lines of Bud Powell with flashes of Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris. In this session, he offers a set list of an eclectic nature, using the composing talents Kenny Dorham, Ahmad Jamal, Miles Davis, and Horace Silver among others.

With thoughtful support from Jimmy Wormworth on drums, and the ever adaptable Lee Hudson on bass, Hammer starts the proceedings with a Kenny Dorham composition “Asiatic Raes” and fully demonstrates his exploratory instincts. The Jerome Kern chestnut ”The Folks Who Live On The Hill” has been done to death by numerous artists, but Tardo has managed to avoid the usual clichés with his thoughtful rendition. Ahmad Jamal’s “New Rhumba” gained currency when Miles Davis included it on his album Miles Ahead. Now Hammer, following a strong introduction from bassist Hudson and a subsequent solo, gives the wonderful stop-time melody a fresh approach.

Fulfilling an early promise, is often a challenge in an overly-competitive musical environment. Perhaps that may help to explain why Hammer has perhaps not received the kind of recognition his talent deserves. But clearly in this recital he exhibits that he is a harmonically confident pianist, whether it’s on Cedar Walton’s title tune “Simple Pleasure” where he shows his poised technique, or the Miles Davis composition “Fran Dance” as he gives free rein to his probing instincts. This is a sparkling album that deserves wide recognition.

TrackList: Asiatic Raes; The Folks Who Live On The Hill; New Rhumba; Uranus; I’ll Wait And Pray; Kay Dee; Short Story; Simple Pleasure; Fran Dance; My Conception; No Smokin’

—Pierre Giroux

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