David Hazeltine/George Mraz Trio, with Billy Drummond, drums – Manhattan (The New York Sessions, Vol. 1) – Chesky

by | Aug 22, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

David Hazeltine/George Mraz Trio, with Billy Drummond, drums – Manhattan (The New York Sessions, Vol. 1) – Chesky Multichannel SACD310, 1 hour ****:

Pianist David Hazeltine’s Trio provides the first of seven new titles to be released as hybrid SACDs by Chesky, and dubbed The New York Sessions.  The label’s famous minimalist-recording techniques are used on all seven discs.  Hazeltine and bassist Mraz have been heard on two previous Chesky releases, and have made a number of recordings for release only in Japan. Among Hazeltine’s pianist influences are Hank Jones, Red Garland, Barry Harris and Bill Evans. In fact this session was designed to impart a similar subtle and sophisticated elegance to that heard with the classic Bill Evans Trio.

I’m extremely sensitive to drummers who pursue their kit with overmuch enthusiasm, and by my book there’s plenty of them out there. Billy Drummond is clearly not one of them.  He reminds me of drummers such as Connie Kay and Chico Hamilton who address the drums as a real musical instrument.  On this disc he plays nearly entirely with only his brushes,  which fits in beautifully to the easy-going and unforced air of this entire album.

The tunes are mostly standards but not the overplayed ones by any means. I especially dug the Dave Brubeck opener In Your Own Sweet Way. Mraz has a terrific bass solo on Harold Arlen’s Out of This World.  I thought I knew the theme from the Italian film Cinema Paradiso, but didn’t recognize it in the trio’s version, though the give and take of the three players was a strong attraction. Ending with a pair of Cole Porter tunes seems a great way to wrap up a great trio session.  The piano sonics are crisp and pleasing, with the mikes not sounding jammed into the innards of the instrument, so it surprised me that the piano (like most on recordings) still sounded too wide – stretched between the left and right front speakers. I may be dense but I’m afraid the tie-in with the album’s title – Manhattan – was lost on me.

Tracks: In Your Own Sweet Way, Imagination, Out of This World, Theme for Ernie, Cinema Paradiso, Alone Together, Detour Ahead, Don’t Walk Way, So In Love, Everything I Love.

 – John Henry

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