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Bruce Lindsay reviews Nick Hempton “The Business”…

Saxophonist Nick Hempton’s decision to call his second album The Business might be a comment on the commercial nature of jazz, or it might be a rather hubristic statement about the nature of his own music. Big, fat grooves, a real sense of swing, strong melodies and even stronger rhythms suggest that Hempton is right to name this album The Business on both counts: because this is a high-quality collection of straight-ahead jazz with an immediate accessibility.

Hempton, originally from Australia and now resident in New York, formed his band in 2005. The quartet appeared on his debut recording, the self-produced Nick Hempton Band (2009). Now signed to Posi-Tone, the original lineup is back for this second album’s collection of Hempton originals plus two fascinating covers.

Hempton is equally adept on alto and tenor saxophones. On alto, his tone is dry and crisp, lending itself well to up-tempo, swinging numbers like “Flapjacks In Belo” or the slinky “Press One For Bupkis.” His tone is somewhat warmer and more rounded on tenor, giving a smoky, late-night sound to the band’s bluesy take on Don Redman’s “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You.”

Six years working together ensures that the band is tight and cohesive. Bassist Marco Panasciaand drummer Dan Aran form a solid rhythmic foundation, and both display invention in their soloing. Guest guitarist Yotam Silberstein is used sparingly but to good effect, bringing a lightness of touch to his solo on “Cold Spring Fever” and joining Hempton in some fluid unison playing on “Carry On Up The Blues.” Pianist Art Hirahara is also an effective rhythm player, adding some understated lines to underpin Hempton’s lead playing. When Hirahara gets the chance to solo he shows himself to have a similar lightness and fluidity of his own, his solo on “Not Here For A Haircut” precise but swinging.

While the band’s style is generally straight-ahead, blues is at the core of much of the music, lending it an emotional connection that’s not always present in the contemporary mainstream.The Business is commercial, but not at the expense of the music’s heart.

Track Listing: Flapjacks In Belo; Art Is In The Groove; Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You; Press One For Bupkis; From Bechet, Byas And Fats; Encounter At E; Cold Spring Fever; Not Here For A Haircut; The Wading Game; Carry On Up The Blues.

Personnel: Nick Hempton: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Art Hirahara: piano; Marco Panascia: bass; Dan Aran: drums; Yotam Silberstein: guitar (2, 7, 10).

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Tim Niland on Nick Hempton “The Business”….

Nick Hempton is a straight-up mainstream saxophonist and leader who plays in a very confident manner and has a very appealing musical tone. On this album, he is joined by Art Hirahara on piano, Marco Panascia on bass, and Dan Aran on drums. Yotam Silberstein sits in on guitar for a few tracks. The group plays an appealing mix of standards and originals beginning with the medium up-tempo “Flapjacks In Belo” featuring some strong and assured saxophone leading the way, and a ripe piano, bass and drums feature. “Art Is in the Groove” has a strutting feel with a funky solo that has Hirahara switching to electric piano along with strong deep bass. Hempton re-enters with some sharp toned saxophone and then some guitar enters with a nimble brisk tone. The classic ballad “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” is opened with slow probing piano and lush saxophone. Hempton works the ballad really well, building his solo patiently from the ground up. The ringer in the set and what sets it apart from the many good post-bop albums out there is the group’s adventurous cover of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “From Bechet, Byas, And Fats.” Kirk’s music is ripe for re-interpretation and Hempton’s group does an outstanding job of it. After an excellent thick bass solo from Panascia, piano ups the pace and leads to a strong saxophone solo. They make the complicated track work really well, and it is closed out by an exciting section where saxophone and drums trade ideas. “Cold Spring Fever” goes for a more contemporary sound, at first coming off as a little glib, but quickly righting the ship with some excellent drumming and guitar accents. There’s an Atlantic-period Coltrane feel to the lightning fast saxophone in “Not Here For A Haircut” but Hempton never stumbles, playing with a great deal of confidence, building his solo architecturally. After a lengthy probing ballad “The Wading Game,” the group wraps up with a short blast of fun called “Carry on up the Blues” taking things out with muscular modern jazz featuring guitar and bass. This was a really well played and self-assured album, the band is a tight and focused, and Hempton is really a soloist and bandleader to watch.
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Step Tempest review for Nick Hempton “The Business”…

Saxophonist Nick Hempton has got something good going-on in his sophomore release, “The Business”  (Posi-Tone Records). If you just put the CD on and go about your business, this sounds like fairly solid, straight-ahead, “post-bop.”  When you listen closely, you hear a real band at work.  Whether it’s singing, swinging, lines of bassist Marco Panascia or the inventive drumming of Dan Aran, this music is, for the most part, filled with joyous moments.  Then, there are the voicings and flights of fancy from pianist Art Hirahara and all one needs is some good tunes to “blow” on. Mr. Hempton, a native of Australia, has been leading the band for the better part of 5 years and one can easily hear that they are comfortable with each other. Guitarist Yotam Silberstein joins the group on a number of tracks and he, too, fits right in.

Whether it’s the martial strut of the drums on “Press One for Bupkis” (with a melody line that echoes that of “To Life” (from “Fiddler on the Roof”) or the low-down blues of Don Redman’s “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” (where Hempton’s tenor has the weight of the best work of Ben Webster), this is so much more than “background” music.  The other “cover” tune is an inspired choice.  The quartet dances its way through Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “From Bechet, Byas, and Fats“- in the second half of the song, the band doubles the pace for a romp of a solo from Hirahara followed by a ever-shifting exchange of the drummer with the rest of the group.  Hempton displays a lighter tone on the handsome ballad “Encounter at E“; listen to the piano accompaniment, spare yet effective or Aran’s “conversational” drums and the way Panascia propels the piece (nice, melodic, solo as well.)  Everyone gets “funky” for “Not Here For a Haircut“, Hirahara’s Fender Rhodes dancing atop the “fatback” drums, the chunky rhythm guitar and the bouncing bass.  Hempton, in contrast, takes a measured solo, filled with melodic flourishes, giving way to Silberstein’s bluesy turn.  There’s a bit extra bounce in everyone’s step on the closing tune, a “hot” number called “Carry On Up The Blues.” This is definitely one of the “happier” blues tunes you’ll ever hear.

The CD is in Nick Hempton’s name and, while he wrote the majority of the tunes, the success of this music is in the spirited work of all involved.  If somebody going to give you “The Business“, don’t say no!

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Dan Bilawsky’s AAJ review for Nick Hempton “The Business”….

The workaday details of the business world don’t really relate to jazz very much. Boring meetings, piles of paperwork, and endless conference calls have little to do with the in-the-moment magic that surrounds this music, but that doesn’t mean that jazz musicians don’t know how to get down to business when the tape is rolling.For his Posi-Tone debut, saxophonist Nick Hempton brought his working band back into the studio, and they dive right into the music from the get-go. Hempton immediately establishes himself as a saxophonist with a bold voice, capable of comfortably moving from Brazilian waters at high tide (“Flapjacks In Belo”), to swing-based music (“Art Is In The Groove”), to old school balladry of a smoky nature (“Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You”), all within a three-song span.As the saxophonist moves from piece to piece and style to style, he proves to be somewhat of a tonal chameleon, capable of dressing up his own sound with different drapery that fits the decor of the room he might happen to be in at that moment. When the lights are low and the room is dark, his tone has a breathy bouquet, giving off an irresistibly seductive aroma, but he doesn’t dwell in this space. In other places, he simply radiates the bright energy of a song through his horn.

As of the release of this recording, Hempton’s quartet has been working together for nearly six years, but it clearly hasn’t become complacent during its time together. Hempton’s compositions continually push the band, and the presence of guitarist Yotam Silberstein on several tracks helps broaden its aural horizons. Silberstein adds sensational solo work to “Art Is In The Groove,” and brings out the punchy personality within Hempton’s music elsewhere.

Drummer Dan Aran serves as the navigator for the band, charting a course that takes them from hi-hat driven rock (“Cold Spring Fever”) to swing of all speeds and manners (“Carry On Up The Blues” and “From Bechet, Byas And Fats”), with other stops along the way, but he’s only one member of this able-bodied crew. Bassist Marco Panascia provides the perfect bottom-end movement, from walking bass lines to percolating solos, in every piece, while pianist Art Hirahara is in prime form, whether setting the ball in motion with a unique chordal statement delivered in metronomic fashion (“Not Here For A Haircut”) or soloing over a delightfully waltzing beat (“The Wading Game”).

Hempton exhibits sterling technique, soloing of a tasteful-meets-tasty nature, and a compositional acuity that few possess, making this record sound more like pleasure than business.

Track Listing: Flapjacks In Belo; Art Is In The Groove; Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You; Press One For Bupkis; From Bechet, Byas, And Fats; Encounter At E; Cold Spring Fever; Not Here For A Haircut; The Wading Game; Carry On Up The Blues.

Personnel: Nick Hempton: saxophones; Art Hirahara: piano; Marco Panascia: bass; Dan Aran: drums; Yotam Silberstein: guitar (2, 7, 10).

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Lucid Culture weighs in on Nick Hempton “The Business”….

Classic Tunefulness from Nick Hempton

File this one under melodic jazz composition – really, really good, interesting tunes and tasteful playing, classic late 50s/early 60s style. On saxophonistNick Hempton’s new album The Business, the blues is always lurking somewhere, if not always centerstage, one reason why the hooks are so strong. Hempton goes for a clean, uncluttered tone and favors melody over ostentatious blowing. The first-class band on this session includes Art Hiraharaon piano, Yotam Silberstein (who also appears on Jordan Young’s excellent new quartet album) on guitar, Marco Panascia on bass and Dan Aran on drums. Hempton has a thing for minor keys – his tunes often have a sardonic wit and a refreshing unpredictability, and the band rises to the occasion.

The first track is titled Flapjacks in Belo, samba-tinged with a long Hempton solo, Hirahara in late-night expansive mood, with a trick ending (something that will recur here, very enjoyably). The somewhat tongue-in-cheek Art Is in the Groove is a brisk retro swing tune seen through the prism of the early 70s, Hirahara delivering a period-perfect Joe Sample-ish solo on Rhodes, letting those reverb tones ring out for all they’re worth. One of only two covers here, Don Redman’s Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You gets going reaaaal slow, Hempton stays low and cool but then crescendos almost imperceptibly. The other, Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s From Bechet, Byas and Fats is a real blast: it’s got a bass solo that’s almost a banjo tune, a lickety-split, sly Hirahara solo at doublespeed and a deliciously dark, bluesily climactic outro. It’s obviously a live showstopper for these guys.

Another real stunner here is the offhandedly moody Press One for Bupkis, Hirahara’s crescendo hitting the spot very satisfyingly, Hempton taking his time winding it out with suspenseful ambiguity. Likewise, the brooding jazz waltz The Wading Game has Panascia carrying its weight with an unexpected grace, Hirahara going out into the dark and coming back joyously, Hempton ratcheting up the intensity with a vividly bittersweet solo. The pensive ballad Encounter in E artfully works variations on a subtly modal bass theme up to a slinky bounce, Panascia’s matter-of-factly wary solo one of the album’s high points. With its casual sway, Cold Spring Fever is a showcase for both Silberstein’s rhythm playing (he goes into staggered ska for a bit underneath Hempton’s hazily acidic melody) as well as a nimble solo. The catchy, playful Not Here for a Haircut alternates between scurrying shuffle and straight-up swing – Hirahara once again can’t wait to get in on the fun and flip the script on the listener. The album ends on a jaunty note with the pretty self-explanatory Carry on up the Blues. Yet another winner from the Posi-Tone label, who are really on a roll this year.

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SaxShed reviews Nick Hempton “The Business”….

Native Australian saxophonist Nick Hempton has recently released “The Business” on Posi-tone Records. Hempton plays both alto and tenor saxophone as well as having composed all but one of the tunes on his second release. Hempton is joined by fellow bandmates Art Hirahara, piano; Yotam Silberstein; guitar; Marco Panascia; bass and Dan Aran on drums.

Nick Hempton’s quintet on “The Business” represents a 6-year relationship for the group. They are a cohesive unit who often work together in New York City and beyond, not just another studio all-star group who have assembled for one recording.

Hempton chooses to open up with hisFlapjacks In Belo, a medium-up bossa played on alto saxophone. The spirited group has a traditional, mainstream sound – very easy on the ears. Hempton weaves through the changes effortlessly while his rhythm section confidently accompanies behind him. Hirahara’s piano solo and particularly Dan Aran’s drums behind the same are also highpoints hit on the opening tune.

The hard-swinging Art Is In The Groove reveals that Nick Hempton is equally comfortable on tenor sax. Hirahara’s electric piano lends a wonderful sonic diversion from the acoustic piano heard previously. Marco Panascia and Yotam Silberstein chug along on bass and guitar respectively eventually setting up things for Hempton’s tenor. Among Hempton’s influences listed is Dexter Gordon. His general concept of time, feel and sound are clearly reminiscent of the late great tenor player, yet not a copy at all. Silberstein solos followed by an easily overlooked killer swing vamp before the return of the final melody.

After hearing Hempton on both alto and tenor I could hear qualities of both horns on Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You. The slow and swinging blues played on tenor provides a perfect opportunity for Hempton and the rest of the group to get down and dirty.

Hempton returns to the alto again for Press One for Bupkis, which is one of the three longest cuts on “The Business.” It is not completely obvious that the tune is set to 5/4 time from the onset. The group swings and the soloists play effortlessly over this odd time signature, which at least partially feels like a jazz waltz.

From Bechet, Byas, And Fats allows Marco Panascia to take a chorus on bass for the first time. As the title implies, this cut draws upon an earlier jazz tradition, weaving in and out of various swing feels. The abrupt accelerando about midway into the tune results in a shift in time to a  new, blistering pace. Hirahara, and particularly Hempton demonstrate that they have no problem playing tempos. Even Dan Aran gets and opportunity to trade a bit on drums.

The sparse and brooding, Encounter At E begins with the two main voices of alto and piano that is then augmented by bass and drums. The tune gains momentum periodically only to fade back into a near blank sonic canvas.

Up to this point in the recording nothing has sounded quite like Cold Spring Fever. The rock feel in Aran’s drums along with Silberstein’s syncopated guitar comping suggest a much different palette from which the soloists to choose.

Not Here For A Haircut further lends credence to the fact that Nick Hempton and his group can play tempos. This up-tempo barnburner first features Hempton on alto, which is presumably his most comfortable voice. Hirahara solos while Hempton and the rest add some well-placed kicks behind the pianist.  Not to be outdone by the others, Dan Aran showcases some quick hands on two short but well-executed drum breaks before the melody out.

Panascia gets an unusual solo spot right up front on the quiet and subdued waltz The Wading Game.Both Hirahara and Hempton solo as their choruses begin to swing harder only a few bars in. Hempton weaves a wonderful solo before returning to the melody.

Among my favorite tunes recorded on Nick Hempton’s “The Business” is the final track Carry On Up The Blues. This is the perfect closer. Hempton swings hard outlining the harmonies and occasionally taking it out just enough to spice things up. Silberstein solos on guitar taking it slow and simple at first. He then proceeds to string together a series of 8th note lines interspersed with tritones and blues licks. The two play the melody in  a fitting unison to put the period on the end of the sentence that is “The Business.”

The press kit that accompanies Nick Hempton’s “The Business” reveals that Hempton’s youth was “misspent playing Rhythm & Blues and Ska…” Although some may see time spent learning outside the jazz tradition as less than optimal, Nick Hempton has turned it into a style. It appears this diverse set of influences early on indeed makes Hempton’s jazz “original, approachable, and always swinging.”

You can find out more about Nick Hempton and other innovative recordings at



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JazzWrap reviews Nick Hempton “The Business”…

Nick Hempton: The Business (Posi-Tone Records; 2011)

Nick Hempton (sax)

Dan Aran (drums)
Marco Panascia (bass)
Art Hirahara (piano)
Yotam Silberstein (guitar)
I first encountered Nick Hempton through Smalls Jazz Club in New York. The group is tight and fierce. It’s a true, swingin’ yet basic hard bop outfit that should instantly attract the attention of even ardent non-jazz fan. Nick Hempton, originally from Australia then transplanted to New York, has been on the scene for just a few years. Hempton’s style is like a young Dexter Gordon, but don’t underestimate Nick Hempton or his band for just another revivalist of hard bop. Hempton can craft a tune and his long standing quintet can cut some powerful chords.
After fighting it out to get gigs at the various venues around the city, Hempton finally landed a fairly regular gig at Smalls. That open environment definitely permeated the group’s debut album, Nick Hempton Band (self produced; 2009) which included some terrific numbers including the infectious opener “Get This” and the midtempo rhythms of “Serenity”. Marco Panascia and Hempton share some wonderful passages throughout. Hirahara and Aran also add a strong element of unity for the group as evident on the groovy “The Artful Roger” which could feel at home on any Tubby Hayes record. A solid debut that really shouldn’t be missed.
The freedom and cohesiveness of the group are tightened on the new release, The Business (Posi-Tone; 2011), now adding Silberstein as guest on a couple of tracks. The group and Hempton  display a real sense of growth over the last two years. Hempton sounds bigger and mature. His compositions are also very well rounded as the buoyant, “Art Is In The Groove” demonstrates with great toe-tapping beats from Aran. But even more delicious is the killer organ and guitar work from Hirahara and Silberstein that gives the track a sizzlin’ Jimmy Smith flavour. Hempton wails but is more determined to let his bandmates shine. The standard “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” (one of my favourites), is exquisitely executed by the group. The bluesy, gospel delivery by Hempton has all the elements of a late night club date. The rest of group lay back and follow but tone is rich and unified.
“Encounter At E” is a lovely original ballad that is the best number I’ve heard from Hempton so far in my short time following this group. The group adds a great deal of colour to Hempton’s material here but it still retains a soft tone and glides gently along allowing the listener to absorb every note. Panascia delivers some great lines late that are moving, and accompanied by Hirahara’s smooth well balanced touches on the keys. Hempton’s performance is romantic and very lyrical while the composition itself brings out the best in the group.
The band closes out with a high spirited “Carry On Up The Blues” featuring astounding performances from both Silberstein and Hirahara. Hempton rockets the group through most of the beginning of the piece before turning the show over to the group. It’s a great display of what this band does live. The Nick Hempton Band seems to do what most groups have trouble with – delivering the same patterns and energy that are conveyed in the live performance and translating that to record. The Business is evidence that bop is alive and well and can be delivered both on stage and off. An excellent second record from a group and a leader that are getting better and better with each outing.
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The Jazz Word on Nick Hempton “The Business”…

Saxophonist Nick Hempton leads a swinging quartet for his debut with Posi-Tone Records, The Business. The Australian native, currently residing in New York has a warm, soulfulness to his playing, emulating the styles of hard bop and R & B saxophone giants such as Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderley and Hank Crawford.

Hempton brings a swinging determination to his own compositions, particularly on the sly 5/4 groove of “Press One for Bupkis” and the boppish “Not Here for a Haircut.” A straight-up rendering of “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” reveals a strong penchant for no frills blues playing. The disc’s other cover tune, Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “From Bechet, Byas, and Fats,” an up-tempo minor blues with a bridge, features an exceptional solo from pianist Art Hirahara and fiery trading between Hempton and drummer Dan Aran—Aran provides a tight groove from one tune to the next with the aid of bassist Marco Panascia.

The group is augmented on a few tracks with guitarist Yotam Silberstein who comps and solos with great facility on the closing “Carry On Up the Blues.” A well-conceived disc with hip tunes and strong playing, The Business is an unpretentious, toe-tapping musical ride.