“I don’t like jazz but I like that…”
Sound familiar? Nick Hempton’s sophomore release from 2011 is text book straight ahead swing with as a label executive friend of mine is fond of saying, “more hooks than a fisherman’s hat!” It is called the record business for a reason. Nick Hempton and his band can blow, they swing hard with a lean and mean attack of lyrical intensity and melodic grooves that could raise the dead or at least get their toes tapping.
While the quintet is rock solid, Hempton turns in a stellar performance as he does not subscribe to the speed is king mentality nor does he languish in odd meter in the self indulgent attempt to become the next flavor of the month. Opening with “Flapjacks In Belo” Hempton’s keen sense of melody and harmonic development is spot on. A slight blues infusion in spots keeps the tune interesting and the lyrical movement captivating. Hempton moves between alto and tenor throughout this release with the ease and grace of a musical chameleon. Pianist Art Hirahara turns in a harmonically driven solo with the forward sense of motion that drives the swing straight ahead and never allows the ensemble to jump the sonic track. “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” is that perfect late night nasty blues tune that screams last call!Hempton’s tenor tone is a musical happy place somewhere between Stanley Turrentine and Ben Webster and strikes an immediate sweet spot for fans of the more blues infused jazz closely associated with the two giants. “Cold Spring Fever” brings in six string phenom Yotam Silberstein with a deft touch and clean single note articulation that adds to the texture and ambiance so carefully crafted throughout this release. “Carry On Up The Blues” has just the right amount of pop to close out a straight ahead showcase.
Making old school become new cool is a daunting task for some musicians. Nick Hempton blows…in a good way. This is as far from a commercial release as you can get, Hempton owes no apologies for an amazing lyrical voice that simply can’t help but attract an audience. Commercial, accessible or contemporary are all misleading when it comes to the talent of Nick Hempton.
The Business is a classic straight ahead delight that screams, “You don’t have to go home but you gotta get the hell out of here!”
A 5 Star swing party of the highest caliber.