David Hazeltine, Blues for Gerry Review

David Hazeltine's Blues for Gerry: An Exquisite Blend of Tribute and Artistry


David Hazeltine, Blues for Gerry Review

David Hazeltine’s Blues for Gerry: An Exquisite Blend of Tribute and Artistry

by Ferell Aubre

David-Hazeltine-CDA decade past his departure, David Hazeltine strikes a resonant chord with his triumphant return to the Criss Cross label via his masterful new album, Blues for Gerry. This record, a heartfelt paean to Gerry Teekens, the label’s founder, echoes with respect and homage. Teekens, a man whose faith in Hazeltine’s talents led to eight pivotal album features, saw in Hazeltine a remarkable virtuoso in the making. Hazeltine’s comeback rests firmly on the bedrock of innovative, piano-centric jazz that serves up a mesmerizing fusion of traditional and contemporary jazz elements.

Hazeltine, distinguished for his nimbleness at the piano, can helm and accompany with equal finesse. This adeptness is vividly showcased in the album, which places him at the core of a trio that includes Peter Washington on double bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums. This is the same esteemed trio that Gerry Senior celebrated and his son, Jerry Teekens Jr., desired to bring together again. The result? A syncopated rifting on swing, an improvisational tour de force that broadcasts the trio’s unity from every groove.

The opening track, “Here Again,” accentuates Hazeltine’s textured harmonic contours and unforgettable melodic currents. His piano intricately embroiders patterns, harmonizing with Washington’s solid basslines and Farnsworth’s skillful, swing-infused drumming, laying down a thrilling foundation for the musical journey that follows.

“Tangerine” extends the voyage, offering a persistently vibrant rhythm as a foil to the opening track’s introspective, twisting harmonic spectrum. Hazeltine’s command over improvisation and his knack for maintaining a clear melodic path, even during the most labyrinthine solos, distinguish this track as a standout.

The titular track, “Blues for Gerry,” is a tribute par excellence, encapsulating the bluesy ethos Teekens cherished. The track throbs with rhythm, with Hazeltine delivering a deeply affecting jazz-blues performance embellished with full-bodied chords and emotion-laden solos tinged with the blues hues of the 50s. Washington’s bass and Farnsworth’s drums complement Hazeltine’s piano flawlessly, culminating in a track that swings with an irresistible allure.

In “Body and Soul,” Hazeltine’s flair for reinterpreting standards glows, breathing new life into this familiar tune. His gentle yet exacting touch is a canvas for the trio’s interplay. Their interpretation of “Skylark” is equally polished, throwing fresh light on the classic jazz ballad.

“Minor Disturbance” provides a glimpse into the exceptional rapport between Hazeltine, Washington, and Farnsworth. This track is one of the album’s zeniths — a performance rooted in balance and restraint, demonstrating that true virtuosity isn’t about flamboyance but about surrendering to the music. Yet make no mistake, these guys are scintillating.

The album wraps up on a high note with “Here We Go,” a spirited piece that offers a gratifying finale. The trio’s synergy is tangible, and Hazeltine’s performance is teeming with inventive and captivating ideas.

Blues for Gerry is a stirring tribute to a man who left an indelible mark on Hazeltine’s career. The album attests to Hazeltine’s technical fluidity and his talent for crafting a compelling set of piano jazz performances. More than just an essential addition to any jazz lover’s collection, Blues for Gerry pays homage to the blues-adoring Gerry Teekens and reminds us of his enduring legacy in the jazz world.

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