Wednesday, July 1, 2009

David Hazeltine: Part 2 - The Combos

- [C] Steven A. Cerra, Copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“WHILE THE 1980s saw a profound change in the direction of jazz, it ,was not the result of the sort of startling evolution that had periodically traumatized it in the past. This time there was no Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman or Miles Davis to grab it by the scruff of the neck and send it hurtling in a new direction. Surprisingly, for the first few years of the decade, there was no extremism and little innovation; instead a number of young, highly talented musicians reasoned that for jazz to move forward, some sort of rapprochement with the past was necessary.

It was a trend that critic Gary Giddins called 'neo-classical' conservatism; a return to the basic principles of hard-bop championed by the Blue Note label of the '50s and the acoustic Miles Davis. There was to be no musicological trauma that heralded the arrival of bop or free or the artistic quandary posed by fusion. Instead developments would be measured in terms of individual interpretation and re-combinations of existing knowledge.

Since the mid-1960 the techniques of hard-bop had been taught in colleges and universities and educators such as David Baker, Jamey Aebersold and Jerry Coker had, by the 1980s, written exhaustive text books based on its methodology that were de rigueur for the study of jazz improvisation. In place, therefore, was an underlying set of standards, a community of belief with shared ideas of good and bad.

However, in the face of a rampant avant-garde during the '60s and the popularity of fusion during the '70s such notions seemed conservative and old-fashioned. Yet the methods of hard-bop remained the basis of contemporary jazz improvisation (even the best free jazz relied on its musicians knowing the rules first, before breaking them). Mastery of the tenets of bop had long become the basic requirement for a musician to participate in jazz, tangible evidence of his instrumental and theoretical proficiency; “Bebop,’ said David Liebman, ‘is the calisthenics of jazz improvisation.’”

– Stuart Nicholson, Jazz: The 1980s Resurgence [New York: DaCapo Press, 1995, pp. 221-222].

© - Copyright protected; all rights reserved.

When describing David Hazeltine’s music in settings other than the Jazz trio, or what Andrew T. Lamas referred to in Part 1 of this feature as the – “smallest prime number for complete artistic expression in America's classical music” – the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has opted to limit the basis of this review to his association with the sextet One for All and a few of the individual albums that he has made with the group’s principal horn men – trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Steve Davis and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander.

This decision is purely one of self-defense as the scope and the depth of Mr. Hazeltine’s recorded, combo work is daunting even with such an artificial delimitation. For as was noted in the earlier segment of this piece, the amount of recorded music that Mr. Hazeltine and his One for All band mates has put out over the last 15 or so years is quite an astonishing large quantity.

I’m certain that Jazz musicians everywhere, today and in the past, would agree that this profusion of recording work is a nice problem to have.

And while it is always great fun to make music with someone new and different, when one does find the bass player who’s time meshes perfectly with the drummer’s cymbal beat, or a pianist whose ‘comping’ [accompaniment] helps move the soloist [comfortably] in new and unexpected direction, or trumpet, trombone, and tenor sax players whose unison sound sends a chill up your spine because they fit so well together, there’s no better feeling than making music with musicians who over a period of time have become like an extension of yourself.

I suspect that this is the case with Mr. Hazeltine and the musicians who form One for All. For all intents and purposes, they have become a musical family who build on one another’s strength and offset their weaknesses.

The extended quotation by Stuart Nicholson at the outset of Part 2 provides a broad context for understanding and appreciating Mr. Hazeltine and One for All for the music of this sextet fits very nicely into the neo-classical, hard bop mode as described above.
Strictly speaking in its post World War II environment, modern Jazz in whatever its manifestation – bop, hard bop, Jazz on the West Coast, et al. – was more often than not a music based on and played by quintets.

Perhaps this was because so many of the combos during this era took their cue from the archetypal bop quintet that was co-led by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker.

The blend of instrumentation based around the treble clef keys that were usually used for instruments such as the trumpet, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone may have also had something to do with the numerous quintets that populated the post-war modern Jazz movement.

It may also have had something to do with the unwieldiness of bass clef instruments such as the trombone and baritone saxophone and the dexterity required to manipulate them to play these modern forms of Jazz. Of course, this point is made with all due deference to trombonists J.J. Johnson and Frank Rosolino and baritone saxophonists Pepper Adams and Gerry Mulligan who had more than enough “chops” to keep up with the new form of the music.

I’m sure that a variety of other explanations can be conjured up, but the fact remains that Jazz sextets were the exception rather than the rule until around the mid-1950’s and shortly thereafter.

On the West Coast, the Lighthouse All-Stars under Howard Rumsey had Shorty Rogers along with trombonist Milt Bernhart and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre, a sextet tradition that was sometimes continued with a later group that included trumpeter Conte Candoli, trombonist Frank Rosolino and tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper.

Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan formed a piano-less sextet that allowed room on the front line for tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims in addition to trumpeter Jon Eardley and valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer.

When financial woes afflicted the first quintet that alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley co-led with his cornetist brother Nat, these circumstances brought about the formation of notably the most famous sextet in modern Jazz history when trumpeter Miles Davis welcome Cannonball to the front line with he and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane for a couple of years in the late 1950’s.

Cannonball must have liked this ensemble so much that when he reformed his second, and this time successful, quintet, he expanded it for a couple of years to include flutist and tenor saxophonist Yusef Lateef.

From the standpoint of hard bop, however, arguably its most proto-typical sextet had its origins in the one formed by trombonist J.J. Johnson which included Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and Clifford Jordan on tenor saxophone [Cedar Walton, one of Mr. Hazeltine’s major inspirations, was the pianist with this group].

However, while the roots for the hard bop sextet proto-type may have been secured with the imminent J.J.’s group, they really blossomed when drummer Art Blakey converted his long-standing Jazz Messengers quintet into a sextet with either Lee Morgan or Freddie Hubbard in the trumpet chair, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone and Curtis Fuller on trombone [with Cedar Walton once again ensconced on the piano bench].

Blakey’s sextet with a passing reference to J.J. and to The Jazztet co-led by trumpeter Art Farmer and tenor saxophonist Benny Golson with Curtis Fuller, Tom McIntosh and Grachan Moncur III all holding down the trombone chair at various times [the ubiquitous Cedar Walton also performed with the group on its live at the “Birdhouse” Argo recording] is the group that I think One for All most patterns itself after in the neo-classical sense as defined by authors Nicholson and Giddins as noted above.

Highlighting the role of David Hazeltine within One for All is in no way is intended to diminish the contributions of the group’s other members; the aforementioned Jim Rotondi, Steve Davis and Eric Alexander along with Mr. Hazeltine’s mates in the rhythm section – John Webber on bass [a chair previously occupied by Peter Washington or Ray Drummond or David Williams] and Joe Farnsworth on drums.

While the group is a “collective,” or perhaps better still, a collaboration, Mr. Hazeltine is worthy of being the focal point or nominal leader for a variety of reason not the least of which is due to his maturity and because as the pianist, he literally has the entire theory of music in front of him in black and white [pun intended].
Or as Joe Farnsworth, the group’s drummer puts it about Mr. Hazeltine place in One for All:

“He gives us and our music a greater sense of maturity and history. He is straight from the tradition of Barry Harris, Buddy Montgomery and Cedar Walton …. From hearing him, we get a glimpse of what it was like to be in the heyday of the music. He has his own sounds – a modern sound with the foundation of his heroes.”

However, let me once again be very clear on this point, emphasizing Mr. Hazeltine’s role with One for All for the purpose of this feature is in no way intended to minimize the contributions of any other member of the group.

Since the group’s inception in early 1997, One for All has issued almost one recording a year. And as was the case with Mr. Hazeltine’s trio recordings, these have been produced primarily on the Sharp Nine [New York], Criss Cross [Holland] and Venus [Japan] labels.

As was the case with the tradition of the Jazz trio, Mr. Hazeltine finds himself once again, but this time along with his One for All cohorts, confronted with the question of how to go beyond simply copying, imitating and emulating the institution of the hard bop sextet to expanding it so as to make their own, distinctive contribution to it.

Let’s spend a bit of time with a dozen or so of One for All albums as recorded over the last dozen year or so [how’s that for symmetry?] and try to identify what is unique and special about the group’s evolution in general and the special musical features on each of the reviewed albums in particular.

To begin at the beginning, for a group that had only formed about six months before its February 25, 1997 recording date, One for All’s initial Sharp Nine CD had the appropriate title of Too Soon To Tell [Sharp Nine CD-1006-2].
Peter Margulies’ insert notes give the following background information about the group and this album’s inception:

“UPTOWN. The word connotes celebration, as in, ‘Let Me Off Uptown.’ But it also suggests sophistication, as the be-bop pioneers demonstrated when they developed their emerging art at Minton’s and Monroe’s in Harlem. The members of One for All play just about every week for a teeming house at Augie’s, a bar on Broadway just below Columbia University on Manhattan’s upper west side. The band incites shouts of approval from its youthful audience with just the combination of sophistication and celebration which the word ‘uptown’ evokes in the jazz tradition.

The specific locus in that rich tradition which serves as a point of departure for these crowd-pleasers is the hard bop of Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers.”

Well, that takes care of the roots and the context, but what about One for All’s music?

First of all, on any and all the tracks on this maiden voyage recording, the sterling musicianship of the group and each of its members is notable. These guys are all technically sound musicians who know their way around their horns as well as the compositional aspects of Jazz and how it is made through improvisation. In a word, they are well-schooled.

If one is going to play Jazz at the highest level, one is going to have to take getting around the instrument for granted so as to leave the mind free to think about the musical stories [substituted melodies] to tell while the tune and the chords [the original song structure and the arrangements of the notes upon which it is based] go flying by. No time to dither here. You either can do it or you can’t and these guys definitely can.

And although the closing tune on the disc is entitled Captain’s Song, an original by Mr. Hazeltine, the role of “captain” is one that he aggregates to himself from the opening tune, Too Soon to Tell, an original by Jim Rotondi whom Mr. Margulies describes as a “fiery and fluent trumpeter.”

What is also striking from the outset, is how well these guys phrase together to achieve a beautifully blended sound between trumpet, trombone and tenor sax [sometimes with Mr. Hazeltine underneath or at the top to add a fourth “voice” to secure some four-part harmony].

The execution of the arrangements is by the group is flawless whether attacking a phrase or smoothly enunciating it, the harmonies that they chose are tight and easy on the ears and the attention to dynamics gives character to and builds suspense in the charts. And, to use a phrase by author Richard Cook, their solos show “… acute control and a good deal of thinking ahead ….”
While it may have been “too soon to tell,” Marc Feldman, Sharp Nine Records’ owner had the group back at Rudy van Gelder’s almost a year to the day later in February, 1998 to record Optimism [CD-1010-2]. Writing for, Joel Roberts had this to say:

“This is the second album by One for All, an all-star sextet of young jazz veterans totally steeped in the hard bop tradition and group dynamic of Art Blakey and Horace Silver’s classic ensembles. … all the band's members are respected figures on the New York scene with long lists of impressive credits. And these guys really know what they're doing, whether it's reworking standards like "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," "What Kind of Fool Am I?" and "These Foolish Things," or tearing through a number of fine neo-hard-bop originals.”

One of the “fine neo-hard-bop originals” is Mr. Hazeltine’s Pearl’s which appears to be comprised of two 16-bar segments with the last four bars of the second segment played as a Latin vamp that serves as a sort of turnaround back to the initial sixteen. Despite the somewhat unusual construction, the tune gives rise to some of the group’s best blowing on the date not the least of which is Mr. Hazeltine’s beautifully constructed opening solo on Pearl’s that seems to set the pace inspire the other players.

Gerry Teekens, owner of the Criss Cross label which is based in Holland, and Max Bollerman his fine recording engineer came to town the following year and this resulted in the 1999 release on his label of One for All’s Upward and Onward [1172 CD].
Mr. Teekens and Criss Cross appears intent on carrying on the tradition of immaculately produced, recorded and designed albums established by Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff [and Reid Miles] at Blue Note Records, particularly in the 1950’s and the finished product involving this initial One for All CD for the label is certainly no exception.

Sid Gribetz offered these thoughts about the group in his insert notes:

“One For All is a cooperative group of some of the hot young veterans of the New York jazz scene. The group has been together for several years now, and during this time, while the members have each gained individual prominence, this sextet remains the bedrock of their musical endeavors. There is a crispness to this ensemble, and the chemistry of their intuitive camaraderie radiates to the listener.

The members of One For All, all good friends, often play together in different combinations, or in other groups. They come together regularly as a full unit, schedules permitting, for rehearsals, performance engagements, and a couple of recordings. Individually, and together in small pairings, the band members all are prolific artists in Gerry Teekens' Criss Cross stable. This album is their first opportunity to record for Criss Cross as the group.

There was a time when working groups in jazz could stay together regularly. Through the regimen of such steady performance, bands, and the individual soloists within, could develop distinctive sounds and conceptions. In recent decades, various social and economic forces have curtailed the ability of such bands to flourish, or even survive. One For All is the closest that we have today. The band hopes that with the greater exposure brought by albums like this, they can entertain more opportunities to tour as a group.

One For All celebrates the hard bop sound, bringing to mind the classic ensemble constructions of the genre. However, unlike the more staid and static presentations of some others (labeled by some critics as neo-traditionalist), this group does not merely recreate this sound. These artists have distilled its swinging and soulful essence, and, while retaining a respectful sense of history, they have utilized this exuberant structure as a platform from which to delve into more contemporary explorations. Indeed, the music on this record is more open and less confining than similar efforts. Yet while the music may be more sophisticated in this regard, One For All aims to keep things catchy and accessible for the regular listener.

Each member of the group brings a special perspective to the table, that adds the right admixture to the tasty blend.”

Mr. Hazeltine contributed two originals to this date: We All Love Eddie Harris and Blues for Joe Don. The former with its characteristics dotted 16th note cymbal beat with Mr. Farnsworth playing on all four beats of each bar with stick crossed over the rim of the snare drum while Mr. Hazeltine punches in a 4-note vamp as a counter-accent will rekindle in the listener thoughts of Eddie Harris’ Freedom Jazz Dance. Everyone has a ball bopping along on this one.

And as for Blues for Joe Don, as described by Sid Gribetz, it “… is a slow blues composed by [Mr.] Hazeltine that affords an opportunity for the band to play something decelerated, but soulful and in the pocket. It’s a standout performance that should draw popular attention.” Mr. Hazeltine does some nice playing over the extended tag that ends the tune in a fade-out.

What is also on display here is One for All’s members ability to pass the acid-test of all excellent Jazz players – a talent for playing the blues.

The Dutchmen at Criss Cross were back again in 2000 to record One for All for the date released as The Long Haul [1193 CD].
Mr. Hazeltine offered these comments about the band and some of its members in Ted Panken’s insert notes:

"Eric is always fresh, he's always playing very different ideas, and he's freed up his playing a lot, but there's always a structure - you can anticipate what he's doing and work with him. With Joe Farnsworth, the feeling will always be there; whatever I do, he'll support it. His impeccable sense of time and swinging feeds me. He plays the part of the beat that I like particularly; I'd describe it as time with an edge on it."

Hazeltine contributes the evocative Summer Nights and The Poo, a C-minor opus dedicated to Cedar Walton. Both tunes embody OFA's hard-won ethos of paring down without dumbing down. "I tried to compose something majestic-sounding to represent my admiration for Cedar," Hazeltine reveals of the latter. "It's a through-composed blues scale with different variations each time playing through the scale; the improvisational section has a form and some chord changes, but they're in a simple, open format for us to stretch out over, as opposed to a complicated bebop tune.

"I like having opportunities to write for this band. Everyone is involved, and all of us bring our compositions and our improvisational styles. We've formulated our conceptions of music similarly, but the different influences manifest themselves differently in our playing - you can't say that anyone has the same style."

Those of you who are familiar with Cedar Walton’s composition Bolivia, will find Mr. Hazeltine’s tribute to him done very much in the style and spirit of Cedar’s composing and playing and the rumbling bass introduction and subsequent vamp that underlies Summer Nights may evoke memories of Kurt Weill’s Speak Low.

Criss Cross certainly indicated its pleasure at having One for All on its roster with a departure from its usual studio based recordings and the release of One for All: Live at Smoke Volume 1 [1211].
On the Live at Smoke Volume 1, Mr. Hazeltine’s solo on Betcha By Golly Wow is about as adventurous and adventuresome as I’ve ever heard him on record. He was certainly “on” that night and it’s wonderful to have such a brilliant solo by him on record to play over and over again as a reminder of what the possibilities are when he really decides to “stretch out.” There’s just something about playing Jazz in front of an audience and Mr. Hazeltine’s solo on this track captures the ineffable essence of such an experience.

Because of their very active and diverse individual schedules, One for All has on average only a dozen or so in-person performances a year. Additionally, but because of their three label relationship with Criss Cross, Sharp Nine and Venus Records, respectively, they have been able to continue their one recording a year into the 21st century.
Their first for Venus occurred in 2001 with the release of The End of a Love Affair [TKCV-35153] which features one original by Mr. Hazeltine entitled How Are You?. It’s played a at a crisp medium tempo with a Latin beat and it’s unique, repeated 16-bar structure is configured with rhythmic vamps and tags that make it very reminiscent of a vintage Horace Silver tune. The group also turns the heat down a bit with very reflective and sensitive renderings of Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments, Hoagy Carmichael’s Skylark and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Corcovado.
The group was back at Criss Cross the following year for Wide Horizons [1234] on which Mr. Hazeltine contributes two more originals: Central Park South and The Conformist. David Orthmann insert notes to the CD contained these comments by Mr. Hazeltine:

“We’re all coming from the same kind of sounds in our heads. We all like most of the same people. We've been doing it together for so long that we know what to expect of each other. A lot of bands can play together all the time, but they don't necessarily come together on the bandstand the same way, because their heads aren't in the same place. And I think that for us it's just the opposite.” Because each member has a full schedule of other commitments, this recording was made in one session after a single rehearsal. To avoid bringing in similar kinds of material, they exchanged ideas and delegated responsibilities by phone and email. "Mostly I think we all just trust each other," Davis says. "We know what everybody's strengths are and try to tailor the music to that. But we also challenge ourselves and challenge one another."…

The process of writing Central Park South, an elegant, medium-to-up tempo swinger that is one of Hazeltine's two compositions for the session, was not a matter of a single burst of inspiration and energy, but rather a disciplined effort that took some time to complete. "I wrote it as a challenge for myself," he explains. "Trying to make something out of the opening several notes - not in the introduction, but once the tune starts. It's kind of like 'Take The Coltrane.' But it's not the same series of notes. The way it starts out, the melody notes are related to the chord. It was something I played one day at the piano and thought, 'I wonder if I could make a tune out of this? So over the course of a few months I developed it into a song."

A thirty-six measure structure that includes sections of sixteen, twelve, and eight-bars, Hazeltine's The Conformist was named quite awhile after it was written. The pianist notes that "I was struggling for a long time trying to think of what to call it. And I started to think about the ways it's unconventional sounding for a jazz tune. But it conforms to certain kinds of musical and structural principles. And I thought, 'Well, why not call it The Conformist?"' Interacting with single-chorus solos by all of the horns and piano, Washington and Farnsworth lock in a funky, straight eighth-note groove in which the level of intensity rises and falls.” …

And trumpeter Jim Rotondi, who arranged Wayne Shorter’s Infant Eyes for the date, made the decision to do it as a feature for Mr. Hazeltine because as he explains: “The ballads we’ve done in the past have always featured one horn player or another. And I think that this kind of showed another side of Dave. He’s been compared to Cedar Walton and Barry Harris, but this is a different sort of way that he might approach a song – because it’s one of Wayne’s tunes, of course.”
2003 would see the equivalent a veritable bonanza of recordings by the group –[okay, so its only two CDs, but that’s better than just one] – with No Problem on Venus Records [TCVC- 35176] that contains a terrific arrangement of Duke Jordan’s title tune and Blueslike [1256] the group’s last recording for Criss Cross which gets its name from an original composition by Mr. Hazeltine.
C. Andrew Hovan talks about tune’s evolution, structure and how some members of the band view it in his insert notes:

“Serving as the album's title track and centerpiece, the expansive Blueslike is a Hazeltine composition that can also be heard on the pianist's Good-Hearted People (Criss Cross 1210). With a repeated bass riff serving as the foundation, this 32-bar structure contains elements of the blues style but is more intriguingly built than the standard 12-bar form. "That tune has been in our book for a long time and for some reason we never recorded it, but it's one we do play on most gigs," Rotondi says. Alexander validates that it's one of the group's favorites and a typically refined piece from Hazeltine's pen. "Dave is truly a wizard arranger and composer and this tune has his signatures all over it with the rhythm section hits and the odd, yet logical movement of dominant 7th chords." Don't miss a particularly incendiary statement from Rotondi, his closing phrase swiftly picked up by Hazeltine who uses it along with his own sagacious quote of Wayne Shorter's "Witch Hunt."”

Mr. Hazeltine when on to offer these comments about Peter Washington [b] and Joe Farnsworth, his rhythm section mates on this recording:

"They're my favorite guys to make music with just because of the swing feeling they have." As for Farnsworth, who seems to be a ubiquitous member of the 'first call' list these days, David adds, "He's very good at what he does and he's a very good accompanist. In fact, he's one of my favorite cats all around, able to do everything and play in a very supportive role so there's never a war about where the time is." The band was once again back at Venus Records in 2006 to record Killer Joe [TKVC – 35194]. In addition to Benny Golson’s “killer” title track, the group also offers excellent performances on another Golson classic – I Remember Clifford – as well as more Jazz standards as penned by Tadd Dameron [Mating Call], J.J. Johnson [Say When], Ahmad Jamal [Night Mist Blues] and Duke Jordan [You Know I Care].

The disc also contains a terrific original by Steve Davis entitled Hot Sake which really keeps drummer Joe Farnsworth busy as he switches from mallets to sticks every four bars to push the tune along with a heavily accented, shuffle rhythm. The tune’s bridge harkens back to the structure of and the beat from Benny Golson’s Blues March. There are a number of fine riffs behind each of the solos and Mr. Hazeltine does a bit of down-home, testifyin’ before the 10.33’ track draws to a close.
2006 also saw One for All back where it all began with a new CD for Sharp Nine Records entitled The Lineup [1037-2]. The title track is an original by Mr. Hazeltine which, through the clever use of modulations and changes in where the accents fall [syncopation], takes the basic AABA 32-bar structure of the tune and makes it sound as though it is configured as and ABCD 32-bar tune.

The group recorded again for Venus in 2007 with What’s Going On [TKVC-35411] and C. Andrew Hovan wrote this review of the album in .

“Going on ten years now, the hard bop collective One For All has proven that you can sometimes have your cake and eat it. While each of the gifted group members can boast active careers as leaders and valuable sidemen in their own rights, they have managed to keep this group together and keep the albums flowing while providing evidence that working ensembles make the best music together. The group’s latest for the Japanese Venus label explores classics from the soul genre and iconic numbers associated with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and Earth, Wind & Fire. The arrangements stay true enough to the originals while providing adequate jazz fodder. David Hazeltine and Jim Rotondi get the lion’s share of the writing chores and all hands on deck get plenty of space to speak their piece.”
And, most recently in 2008, the band returned to by now what might be considered home base with their next Sharp Nine CD – The Return of the Lineup [1042] which Ken Dryden review for as follows:

One for All is a band of New York-based veterans who've played with one another in various combinations, as well as making a number of CDs together under this name with little change in personnel, and of whom all but one are founding members. Featuring tenor saxophonist
Eric Alexander, trombonist Steve Davis, and trumpeter Jim Rotondi in the front line, plus a rhythm section with pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber, and drummer Joe Farnsworth. While each of them (save Webber) works and records often as an individual bandleader, there is an incredible blend of inspired solos, fresh compositions, and arrangements, along with a spirit of cooperation where no egos get in the way of great music. Hazeltine's peppy "Treatise for Reedus" is an uptempo salute to the talented drummer, who died suddenly at the premature age of only 49 a few days prior to this recording session. Alexander's Latin-flavored "Road to Marostica" features tight ensemble work and invigorating solos, while he was also responsible for the updated treatment of George Gershwin's "But Not for Me." This is a rewarding date by a sextet that is always ready to give their all.

When it comes to choosing from Mr. Hazeltine’s recordings outside the context of One for All and his own trip recordings, it is difficult to know where to start as there’s such a wealth of material.
Mr. Hazeltine’s The Inspiration Suite, will serve nicely as a purely arbitrary starting point for this portion of the profile dealing with his work. Recorded in April/2007 on Sharp Nine Records [1039-2] as the CD’s title would imply, this album

“… pays explicit homage to Buddy Montgomery and Cedar Walton, his most consequential musical fathers. Under their influence, he relates, he developed strategies to digest vocabularies drawn from the main pillars of jazz piano modernism [Tyner, Corea, Hancock, Monk, Barry Harris, for starters], and to synthesize his own idiosyncratic ideas about improvisation, composition and arranging.” [paraphrased from Ted Panken’s insert notes to the CD].

Joining Mr. Hazeltine for this date is vibraphonist Joe Locke along with some of his One for All band mates - Eric Alexander [ts], John Webber [b] and Joe Farnsworth [d]. According to Mr. Hazeltine, the “inspiration” for this instrumentation was the quintet co-led at the end of the 1960’s by tenor saxophonist Harold Land and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson. Mr. Hazeltine explains the reason for this juxtaposition of this instrumentation with the musical influence of Buddy Montgomery and Cedar Walton this way to Mr. Panken:

“I saw Buddy play in many contexts as a young kid – solo piano and trio, and also with a larger group with percussion instruments. I heard him manipulate harmony and other elements of music both in his own compositions and in his reworking of standards. He's great at creating little hooks, familiar sections of the tune - a tag, or an introductory harmonic area that he gets into and brings back at the end of the head or the end of each solo chorus, or a rhythmic idea that he adds onto, say, a Cole Porter tune. It pulls things together. He doesn't read music, and his playing and writing have all sorts of little jagged edges; they're ultra-hip, but so off-the-cuff that you can’t guess what's going to happen next."

Mr. Hazeltine first discovered Cedar Walton on records, also in his mid-teens, and discussed him Will Green, a blind pianist with whom he studied.

"Mr. Green's approach was a lot like Cedar’s. He Would improvise fugues on the organ in the style of Bach, with perfect, cleanly articulated eighth notes, in the baroque manner that characterizes the way Cedar plays the piano. Cedar appeals to the side of my personality that needs things to be precise and exact. Everything is crystal clear, well thought through, delivered with the highest degree of musical intention in terms of phrasing, articulation and re-harmonization. You can expect things from him on the highest level and he is going to give them to you."

As to his choice of instrumentation for the recording, Mr. Hazeltine explained it this way:

“Although Buddy and Cedar differ in the ways I mentioned, they both write extremely poignant melodies. Instead of harmonizing the melodies with three horns, as with One for All, I brought them into focus with one melodic line backed up with the vibraphone. Joe’s four-mallet technique enables him to also strengthen the harmonies underpinnings and match my piano voicings – so I get my One for All feeling after all.”

After spending time with Mr. Hazeltine’s approach to music, what become distinctly clear is that he is constantly thinking about ways to perpetuate the qualities that first impressed him about Jazz while adding to them by expanding on their foundation. A compositional case in point in his arrangement of Angel Eyes on trumpeter Jim Rotondi’s Excursions CD [Criss Cross 1184] on which Mr. Hazeltine appears along with the other members of One for All with the exception that Kenny Washington replaces Joe Farnsworth in the drum chair.

His conception for Matt Dennis’ well-known standard was to develop an arrangement that broght it forward as an up-tempo, take-no-prisoners, flag waver. Who but someone with a fertile mind such as Mr. Hazeltine’s could even conceive of transforming the tune in this fashion an opinion that Jim Rotondi validates when he comments:

“[This is] classic Hazeltine. He’ll take a standard and slightly alter the harmony or chord changes, which makes the tune more interesting to solo on. …[He] likes to have everything worked through without leaving anything to chance."
Mr. Hazeltine performs on trombonist Steve Davis’ Systems Blue disc [Criss Cross 1218] on which he arranges Who Can I Turn to and is once again assigned the responsibility for arranging the Nash-Weill evergreen, Speak Low.

As Steve Davis comments:

“Whenever I ask Dave to make a date with me, he got to arrange something for it, because it’ll be so good that I can’t wait to play it.”
To close our time with Mr. Hazeltine and his music, let’s spotlight his album Blues Quarters Vol. 1 [Criss Cross 1188] which features him with tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, the remaining front-line member of One for All and because as Mr. Hazeltine states:

“I have to say that quartet playing is my favorite format.”

Aside from the sparkling music on the recording, Mr. Hazeltine is quoted extensively in Ted Panken’s insert notes and this affords us the opportunity to end this JazzProfiles feature about him in his own words.

But before we get to his comments, perhaps a larger context for them might be derived from what Eric Alexander has to say about Mr. Hazeltine:

“I really feel like I could recognize a Dave Hazeltine composition or arrangement at this point. I'm not sure exactly what it is. It's definitely a modern sound. But it holds on to all the elements of the tradition that I love and, that I think everyone else in the group loves, and that we try to maintain. His arrangements are sort of the quintessential sound of One For All. Dave likes to pick classic standards, or even new Pop standards, and re-harmonize and rearrange them so that they fit into our hard-blowing context. But what's funny is that Dave has tempered our sound. His arrangements, which can be really fiery and exciting, all have a tender side. It's hard to explain. He uses beautiful colors, and makes wonderful use of the three horns."

And Mr. Hazeltine has this to say about his band mates and his music:

"I like an arranged presentation, and in a quartet you can integrate arrangements, just like in a trio setting. Quartet is less restrictive than with three horns, where I have to synch up the harmony exactly to what I wrote for the horns. Since the saxophone is playing the melodies, I have a chance to experiment behind it. I like to play a supportive role as well as being out front in the solo role. I think it sets me up mentally to play looser solos, to play freer than in a trio format, where I am the only solo voice."

The more frequently you play with people, the more predictability there is. Now Eric is not predictable in the sense of, 'oh, I've heard him play that before.' It's more like I know instinctively and immediately that he's going to play something high or something a little out there. Eric is always fresh, he's always playing very different ideas, but there is a structure -- you can anticipate what he's doing and work with him.

"What's predictable with Joe is that it's going to feel right, that the feeling always will be there, that whatever I do, he'll support it. There's give-and-take, but mainly his impeccable sense of time and swinging feeds me. You can have impeccable time in all different parts of the beat; Farnsworth plays that part of the beat that I like particularly. I think it's the same part that the great drummers in the history of jazz, like Philly Joe Jones and Louis Hayes, have always played. I'd describe it as time with an edge on it."

[Commenting on his original composition A Touch of Green], “I wrote this for Will Green, who gave me some insights into the fundamentals of jazz in my teen days in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I know this tune sounds a lot like Cedar Walton, but Mr. Green's approach was a lot like Cedar’s. In fact, I started listening to Cedar just after I stopped studying with him, when I was 15 or 16. Will Green would improvise fugues in the style of Bach on the organ. You know how Cedar plays the piano in an almost baroque manner, with eighth notes that are so perfect and exact and cleanly articulated and precise? That's how Will Green played, too. Being used to his approach is what allowed me such easy access to Cedar.”

[Commenting on how he became familiar with Cry Me a River – a feature for Eric Alexander on the recording – as a result of his tenure as vocalist Marlena Shaw’s musical director] "Playing with singers deeply influenced my ability to accompany people," Hazeltine claims. I did it since I was very young, beginning with a woman named Penny Goodwin, with whom I played a lot of high profile gigs in Milwaukee. She was a very talented, gifted singer, but she didn't know a lot about music, so the things you played behind her influenced the way she was going to sing on any given night. I had to play so that her melody notes were always at the uppermost part of my chords. Otherwise, she'd sing out of tune, or sing something completely different and then blame me. So early on I knew that when playing behind singers, I had to be very accurate and be aware of what the melody is while playing chords. I think that started me on the path of comping melodically, which is the quality of my comping that I think people like."

[Reflecting on what the future holds for he and his colleagues, Mr. Hazeltine offered these thoughts about his generation of Jazz musicians] "New York is so demanding, you get so involved in writing and arranging and recording and doing your own thing and trying to find your voice, that it's easy to forget about your roots. By roots I mean what I grew up with, who I liked listening to, who influenced and inspired me. Playing with these guys has this magical quality of taking me back there, only now I'm doing the playing. I remember listening to James Moody when I was 13 and being very struck by how he played, trying to figure out some of the things he was doing. I have his sound in my head, and when I get to play gigs with him it takes me back into this very simple, 'I really like that music; I really like the way this sounds,' as opposed to being all wrapped up into my own forward motion.

It's a unique thing we have as jazz musicians, that in playing with these guys, we are interacting with history. You're actually getting a chance to create music with people who have created and are continuing to create such great music over the years."

More than anything else, it is this awareness coupled with his talent, hard work and dedication that will insure that we all have a lot more enjoyable and interesting music to look forward to from Mr. Hazeltine in the years to come.