Hard bop heaven – Grant Stewart Quintet…
The Lighting of the Lamps – Grant Stewart Quartet with Bruce Harris –CM110521 – 56:12 – *****
(Grant Stewart – tenor saxophone – Bruce Harris – trumpet – Tardo Hammer – piano – David Wong – bass – Phil Stewart – drums)
The latest release on the Cory Weeds’ boutique label, Cellar Music (out of Vancouver, B.C.), from tenor saxophonist, Grant Stewart and his quartet, with guest trumpeter, Bruce Harris, covers all the bases as a dream hard bop session. The vibe is that of a late night intimate jazz club (hence the CD title), and the eight tracks recorded at the iconic Rudy Van Gelder studio in New Jersey, have the “churchified” blissful groove of classic Blue Note issues of the 1960s.
The two horns blend so sweetly, and the rhythm section purrs, and all is well with the mix. The acoustics have the warmth that the cathedral ceiling of the studio provides. There is not a weak track here. It is nearly an hour that hard bop connoisseurs will treasure.
The song list is a mix of classic tunes (“Ghost of a Chance,” “I’m a Fool to Want You”), and lesser known gems from jazz masters, Clifford Jordan, Benny Golson, Elmo Hope, and Thad Jones. Grant includes one original, “A Piece of Art.” That track honors the jazz piano genius of Art Tatum. The melody includes a taste of a Tatum solo.
There are several “burners” such as Elmo Hope’s “Mo is On,” where the group tackles Hope’s complex harmonies. I especially dug the classic ballad, “I’m a Fool to Want You,” which was done in the same studio over fifty years ago by Dexter Gordon, off his album, Clubhouse. Stewart’s warm burnished tone would make Dexter stand up and take notice.
Honoring jazz greats is a task that Stewart’s group handles with aplomb. Label owner, Cory Weeds, continues to provide issues that both warm the heart, and soothe the soul. Hard bop lovers, can rejoice. Long live Cellar Music. And Grant, please keep Bruce Harris in the mix for future endeavors!
A Piece of Art
Ghost of a Chance
Out of the Past
Mo is On
I’m a Fool to Want You