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Tardo Hammer Trio – Swinging On A Star – CellarLive

Tardo Hammer Trio – Swinging On A Star – CellarLive CL010717 46:45****:

A pianist of cosmopolitan ideas and coherence of approach

( Tardo Hammer – piano; Lee Hudson – acoustic bass; Steve Williams – drums)

One might have thought when Tardo Hammer appeared on NPR’s Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland on November 14, 2008, which followed his 2007 release Look Stop & Listen, he might have moved the needle on his career, but not so. For whatever reason, no further recordings were forthcoming until 2013 when he released Simple Pleasure for this label. Four years on, Tardo Hammer has a new album Swinging On Star for CellarLive which confirms that he is a pianist of cosmopolitan ideas and a coherence of approach that deserves a listen.

In creating this set list, Hammer and his cohorts bassist Lee Hudson and drummer Steve Williams have sought to build a musical statement that uses familiar themes to deliver new wine in old bottles. Starting with Gil Evans’ “Gone” which is a re-statement of Gone, Gone, Gone from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Propelled by drummer Williams,  pianist Hammer romps through the number with stop-time panache.

The title track “Swinging On A Star” was written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke for the 1944 Big Crosby film Going My Way and winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Bassist Lee Hudson opens the number with a run through of the melody with a clear unambiguous tone. Hammer then picks up the story with a fitting solo that builds its own intensity, before Hudson returns to take the tune out. For a charming change of pace “ Samba Do Brilho” does the trick. Hammer deftly pays homage to piece’s  Brazilian heritage.

Miles Davis’ bop influence is delivered in his own composition “Little Willie Leaps”. Hammer takes on the challenges of the number’s fast tempo and chord changes to show his capabilities and demonstrate that he is of the same lineage as  the masters of hard bop piano such as Bud Powell, Hampton Hawes and Kenny Barron. For a completely different take on bebop, look no further than Thelonious Monk. His composition “Monk’s Dream” was recorded by Monk’s then quartet in 1962 under an album of the same name. All of Monk’s quirkiness is on full display in Hammer’s interpretation of the number, with the added feature that Steve Williams drumming is predominately displayed and is full of swing and spirit.

There is no need for a further four years to go by before Tardo Hammer brings his talent before a welcoming audience.

TrackList:
Gone
Numero Uno
Swinging On A Star
Samba Do Brilho
How Are Things In Glocca Morra
Little Willy Leaps
I Found A Million
Dollar Baby
Ballad For Very Tired And Sad Lotus Eaters
Monk’s Dream

—Pierre Giroux

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