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Nick Bewsey picks “Square One”…


Brian Charette: Square One – Ace organist Brian Charette delivers equal amounts of funk and frolic on Square One, a zip-line ride through mostly post bebop originals in the Jimmy Smith tradition. Charette is a frequent collaborator with saxophonist Mike DiRubbo (reviewed last month) and though he’s a smooth groove pianist in that group, he sure can kick up some dust on the organ. Apart from Charette’s absorbing set list, the measure of the album’s success rests directly on the shoulders of his amazing trio mates, guitarist Yotam Silberstein and drummer Mark Ferber, each of them fixtures on the NY scene. Charette’s pop-inflected strokes at the outset of “Aaight” and spacey sonic effects on “People On Trains” and “Things You Don’t Mean” give these strong tracks an unexpected buzz and root them in present day.

Obsessively soulful, whether swinging through the changes on the Meters tune, “Ease Back” or exploring his own love affair on “Three For Matina,” Charette zig-zags through plenty o’ grooves with superb contrasting harmonics from Silberstein and on target beats by Ferber. Though Square One is his seventh solo record, it’s a highly recommended starting point to discover the diverse and accomplished Brian Charette.


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More Coverage for Brian Charette “Square One”…


Damn tight Hammond work from Brian Charette – a player with a really deft touch on the keys, and able to really showcase his own voice on the instrument, but also dip back into some older soulful modes as well! Most of the tracks here are originals by Charette – although there’s also a great Meters cover too – and his trio has all the right inflections to keep up with his soaring sense of energy – making for a mix of guitar and organ that’s maybe even more balanced than most other organ combos. Charette’s got a clean tone on most numbers – ala Jack McDuff at his mid 60s best – but also can open up with more flourish when needed, depending on the track. Titles include “Ease Back”, “Time Changes”, “Aaaight”, “If”, “Three For Martina”, “People On Trains”, and “Things You Don’t Mean”.


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Music and More goes back to “Square One” with Brian Charette

Widely touring organist Brian Charette is accompanied on this album by Yotam Silberstein on guitar and Mark Ferber on drums. They are grooving hard on “Aaight!” and “If” to begin and then move nicely into blues, bop and ballads always swinging in an alluring and accessible manner. Charette is part of the organ tradition of Jimmy Smith and Larry Young but brings his own conception and sound to the album.

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SomethingElse Reviews Brian Charette “Square One”…

With the exception of John Medeski, there are aren’t a whole lot of Hammond B3 players as imaginative as Brian Charette. And even Medeski didn’t come up with the idea to put his B3 alongside a four-part horn section like Charette did a couple of years back. Charette follows up that the uncommonly exciting Music for Organ Sextette with the much more common organ-guitar-drums getup for Square One (March 18, 2014), his first for the well-regarded Posi-Tone label.

Scaling back his combo doesn’t necessarily equate to scaling back on ambitions, however. Charette is plenty talented enough to have modeled this record after Jimmy McGriff or Jack McDuff and it would have certainly gotten a warm reception from jazzbos. But the former Joni Mitchell and Lou Donaldson sideman just can’t settle for the easy route. That’s why any grease found on Square One is just one of many elements he pours into this record.

“Aaight!” has a groovy funky vibe alternating with swing. Charette plays it tough during the funky parts and his guitar player Yotam Silberstein plays it nice ‘n’ breezy during the swinging parts. Charette integrates harmony into rhythm for “Yei Fei,” with drummer Mark Ferber inserting complex wrinkles into the rhythm, but Ferber makes it seem easy. The quick-paced “Ten Bars for Eddie Harris” sizzles and bristling with highlights, like Silberstein’s fuzzy toned lead lines, Charette’s typical organ burns and the song coming to a standstill for Ferber’s showstopping, spirited drum solo.


Charette picks the sleeper cut “If” from Larry Young’s Unity, featuring tasty licks by Silberstein and Charette making plain that Young is a major influence of his. Charette’s own “Time Changes” is remindful of “If,” full of interesting chord and tempo changes. The one other cover is the early Meters tune “Ease Back,” where Silberstein’s clipped notes and psychedelic sound evoke that vintage Big Easy funk feel without mimicking it.

Though not credited, background synthesizer sounds (from producer Marc Free) can be heard on four of the tracks, an odd juxtaposition with the vintage vibe coming from an organ trio but Charette isn’t afraid to take chances. It works best on “A Fantasy,” a choice slice of stormy rock-soul fusion jazz played in 7/4 time.

Brian Charette goes back to Square One but he doesn’t land on the rote or mundane. This is bound to be one of the more adventurous, eccentric and — ultimately — satisfying organ trio releases of the year.


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Dan Bilawsky reviews several new Posi-Tone Releases for AAJ…

Some labels release a few records a year; some put out a record every month or two; and then there are those, like the Los Angeles-based Posi-Tone Records, that prefer to push even more music through the pipeline.

As 2014 came into being, Posi-Tone began an ambitious release schedule, putting out a new album every few weeks. Those who cover jazz and follow the scene intently can’t seem to turn around these days without bumping into one of their discs. Everything from groove dates to post-bop parties to beyond-the-norm entries fly under the banner of this small-but-thriving label. Here’s a look at four from the ever-growing Posi-Tone pile.

Brian Charette
Square One

Organist Brian Charette has appeared as a sideman on several albums for this imprint, but Square One is his leader debut for Posi-Tone. He works with the tried-and-true organ trio format here and it suits him well.

Guitarist Yotam Silberstein and drummer Mark Ferber join Charette for what starts out solid and turns into a hell of a ride. The first few tracks on this one almost almost seem like a warm-up, as the band finds its footing with funk-to-swing fun (“Aaight!”), pays respect to Larry Young(saxophonist Joe Henderson’s “If”), and pleasantly waltzes on by (“Three Martina”). All of this material comes together well, but sparks don’t always fly. That all changes when the band finds its stride with The Meters’ “Ease Back.” That track, which comes at the midpoint of the album, starts the winning streak. Everything that follows is superb. Ferber’s snare drum groove on “A Fantasy” makes the song, Silberstein pulls out some Lionel Loueke-esque sounds on “Things You Don’t Mean,” and the whole band becomes strikingly unhinged during “Ten Bars For Eddie Harris.”

Charette’s ability to hunker down into a groove, look to the outer limits, or switch between the two at a moment’s notice helps to keep listeners on their toes during this delightful and occasionally daring date.

Jared Gold

Jared Gold, like Charette, has never subscribed to old school organ orthodoxy. He’ll give the past its due, but he works in the present. This is his seventh album in seven years—all released on Posi-Tone—and it finds him fronting an augmented organ trio, with three horns added to the mix. These other voices don’t dominate the program, but they do get to step out on occasion, round out the sound of the group, create some harmonic heft, and add some secondary colors to these pieces.

The album opens on Gold’s slow swinging “Pendulum,” guitarist Dave Stryker’s crackling “Spirits,” and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s gospel-inflected “Sermonette,” complete with some baritone saxophone preaching from Jason W. Marshall. The attention then shifts to the core trio during a take on James Taylor’s “Shower The People” that shifts focus from nuanced texture painting to slick-and-slippery funk. Drummer Sylvia Cuenca steals the show on a burning “No Moon At All,” trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt steps up to the plate on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” and alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius gets to shine on Gold’s lively-and-bouncy “Fantified.” This mostly-covers set finishes with two more, as a smoking “Cubano Chant” and comfortable “Charcoal Blues” finish things off in style.
Steve Fidyk
Heads Up!

Drummer Steve Fidyk is best known for his sideman and studio contributions, writing for Modern Drummer magazine, and work with the Taylor/Fidyk Big Band. Here, he makes his bones with the Posi-Tone gang by fronting a quintet that features a pair of heavy-hitters—trumpeterTerell Stafford and saxophonist Tim Warfield. The program contains four Fidyk originals, two numbers from guitarist Shawn Purcell, and three covers.

Heads Up!, like the aforementioned Charette album, doesn’t start out with the most distinctive music on the disc. It’s the first cover—”Make Someone Happy”—that, strangely enough, gives Fidyk’s music its own identity. A muted Stafford draws focus as Fidyk’s brushes glide along below. From that point on, most everything makes its mark. Purcell’s guitar and Regan Brough’s bass join together for the Charlie Parker-ish “Might This Be-Bop,” which is also bolstered by Fidyk’s brushes, and Stafford picks up his flugelhorn for an uncommonly slow and beautiful take on “I Can See Clearly Now.”

Fidyk’s most notable originals—”The Flip Flopper,” a funky tune with some memorable guitar work from Purcell, and the warm-hearted “T.T.J.”—come later in the album, but it’s Cole Porterthat has the final word; Fidyk and company finish with a metrically-altered “Love For Sale” that’s pure fun.

Tom Tallitsch

Saxophonist Tom Tallitsch focuses on his own music on his second release on Posi-Tone and fifth date as a leader. He throws in David Bowie’s “Life On Mars” and Led Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone” for good measure, but the other nine tracks are all of his making.

Tallitsch proves to be a commanding player throughout Ride, but it’s the sidemen that help to bring out the best in the music. Rock solid players like pianist Art Hirahara and bassistPeter Brendler help to keep things running smoothly, guest trombonist Michael Dease brings the heat, and Rudy Royston, the seemingly ubiquitous super drummer, adds some wattage to Tallitsch’s tunes. Royston’s in high spirits on the title track and he drives the hell out of a few other numbers.

While the faster material always carries excitement with it, Talitsch’s strongest pieces aren’t the burners. “Rain,” which Tallitsch accurately frames as “gospel country,” the Brazilian-tinged “El Luchador,” which gives Dease a chance to shine, and the bluesy “Knuckle Dragger” all leave more of a lasting impression on the ear.

Tracks and Personnel

Square One

Tracks: Aaight!; If; Three For Martina; People On Trains; True Love; Ease Back; Time Changes; A Fantasy; Yei Fei; Things You Don’t Mean; Ten Bars For Eddie Harris.

Personnel: Brian Charette: organ; Yotam Silberstein: guitar; Mark Ferber: drums.


Tracks: Pendulum; Spirits; Sermonette; Shower The People; No Moon At All; I Just Can’t Stop Loving You; Fantified; Cubano Chant; Charcoal Blues.

Personnel: Jared Gold: organ; Dave Stryker: guitar; Sylvia Cuenca: drums; Patrick Cornelius: alto saxophone; Jason Marshall: baritone saxophone; Tatum Greenblatt: trumpet.

Heads Up!

Tracks: Untimely; Last Nerve; Make Someone Happy; Might This Be-Bop; I Can See Clearly Now; The Flip Flopper; The Bender; T.T.J.; Love For Sale.

Personnel: Steve Fidyk: drums; Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tim Warfield: tenor saxophone; Shawn Purcell: guitar; Regan Brough: bass.


Tracks: Ride; Life On Mars; Rubbernecker; Rain; The Giving Tree; Ten Years Gone; El Luchador; The Myth; Knuckle Dragger; The Path; Turtle.

Personnel: Tom Tallitsch: tenor saxophone; Michael Dease; trombone; Art Hirahara: piano; Peter Brendler: bass; Rudy Royston.

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StepTempest on Brian Charette “Square One”…

In conversation with Brian Charette as he and drummerJordan Young were in a car recently on their way from Cleveland to Cincinnati (Mr. Young was driving), the organist told me that his training on the B-3 came under the heading “trial by fire.” Trained as a pianist (and having played gigs with the likes of Houston Person and Lou Donaldson while in high school), he moved to New York City and one of his first jobs was as on organ. He made it through without embarrassing himself but went right out and bought an organ, rented a space and practiced long hours.

Over the past 2 decades, he has worked with Joni Mitchell, Chaka Khan and Bucky Pizzarelli (and many more) plus spends a good chunk of the year in Europe.  He has issued 7 CDs as a leader with 8 + 9 just being released including his new Sextette CD, “The Question That Drives Us” (Steeplechase) and his debut as a leader on PosiTone Records titled “Square One.”  It’s the latter one we’ll look at here (and save the former for next week.)

Square One” finds the Meriden, CT, native in the company of Israeli-born guitarist Yotam Silberstein and the great drummer Mark Ferber.  The trio had played numerous gigs together so, by the time they entered Acoustic Recording in Brooklyn, NY, they were ready to hit.  Most of the tracks were recorded in 1 take (the session took less than 4 hours) but nothing sounds incomplete.  Ferber swings with abandon throughout giving both Charette and Silberstein an excellent cushion to solo over.  Also, the organist’s bass pedal footwork provides even more depth.  Charette also mentioned in our conversation that he is always prepared before entering the studios and the vast majority of his songs have strong melodies while being smartly arranged. Best of all, this music is really a lot of fun (in keeping with the leader’s attitude in life.)  Opening with the funky “pop” of “Aaight” that almost immediately drops into a “swing” groove and back again, “Square One” keeps one guessing.  There are  2 “cover” tunes, the hard-driving “If” (composed by saxophonist Joe Henderson for organist Lary Young’s 1956 Blue Note Lp “Unity”) and the New Orleans groove of “Ease Back” (a tune composed and recorded in 1969 by The Meters). On the former track, Ferber really digs in and pushes mightily while, on the latter, the trio speeds the piece up from the original making even more danceable (dig those chunky rhythm guitar lines and “clicking” phrases from Silberstein.)

Other highlights include the “otherworldly” sounds of “Things You Don’t Mean” (a tune with a wicked groove) and the hard-rock modality of “A Fantasy” (great guitar work) and the insistent forward motion of “Yei Fei” (a piece most reminiscent of Larry Young’s work).  “Three For Martina” has a lovely melody line and the interaction of the organ with the quiet, spare, guitar interjections stands out.  The program closes with “Ten Bars For Eddie Harris” with Ferber’s charging drum work blazing the way for Silberstein’s fiery guitar lines and Charette’s spirited organ work.  The drummer gets to let loose for 30 seconds before the “church-y” organ chords and squalling guitar leads back to a super-charged final repeat of the opening theme.

In the afore-mentioned conversation, Brian Charette said that “Square One” was his favorite recording especially because of the excellent work of recording and mixing engineer Nick O’Toole (co-owner of PosiTone).   O’Toole really captures Mark Ferber’s splendid drum work and all 3 instruments are equal in the mix.  If you still have a case of the “winter blues”, put this CD in the machine and let it rip good and loud.  I’m quite sure you’ll be smiling before long.

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Bop-n-Jazz on Brian Charette “Square One”…

Brian Charette is the new sound for the organ, Square One is not back to basics but instead ground zero for the future of one of the finest organ players in the world.
Brent Black /
Make no mistake that Brian Charette is a leader and far from a newbie and while the term “session player” is incredibly unfair if not inaccurate, Brian would probably tell you his diverse musical background is perhaps key to his forward thinking compositions. Square One is far from a blast from the past yet there is a smoldering Larry Young meets Joey DeFrancesco feel that is pulled off not as a riff but as a forward thinking visionary working as the by product of his own artistic experiences. Brian Charette is an artist. This is straight ahead organ infused with a contemporary soul. The sound of New York.
The organ trio can be feast or famine. Truth be told I have not heard an organ trio that I could not appreciate on “some” level with the catch being some better than others. Square One gets bumped up to “better than others!” Joining Brian we have critically acclaimed guitarist Yotam Silberstein and rock steady drummer Mark Ferber. The end result of Square One is an intimate collective with a burning soul. Brian paints with a broad and deep harmonic brush with the end result as the mythical three dimensional sonic depth of field.
Colors you can hear.
Yotam Silberstein and Mark Ferber are far from accompanists and instead integral parts of a rare harmonic synergy captured in such a stripped down ensemble. Covers here are minimal, don’t need them. “If” from Joe Henderson and “Ease Back” from the Meters fit hand in glove alongside Charette originals such as “True Love” and “Ten Bars For Eddie Harris.”
Brian Charette’s compositions are tight, soulful and harmonically inventive. Some reviews write themselves. But humor me…
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Another positive review for Nick Hempton “The Business”…

“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.
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SomethingElse Reviews Nick Hempton “The Business”…

Australian native alto sax practitioiner Nick Hempton is distingished by his smooth tone and direct delivery. The Business is distinguished by a few things, too. First of all, Hempton is joined by Art Hirahara, is in-demand session pianist who last spring delivered a solid album himself. Secondly, Hempton’s eight originals are all dulcet, deviating and resolutely swinging. Hempton shifts gears from the steady groove of “Flapjacks In Belo” to tender ballads like “The Wading Game,” but they’re tied together by an effortless flow and excellent supprt from his working band that inlcudes Hirahara, bassist Marco Panascia, drummer Dan Aran and for some tracks, guitarist Yotam Silberstein. Only two covers, and the standout is a cookin’ impression of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “From Bechet, Byas, And Fats.”


For just his second album, Nick Hempton shows that he means, well, business. Seriously good jazz business. The Business was released July 5 by Posi-Tone Records.

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AAJ interview with Nick Hempton….

“I like to chat with the audience between songs. Sometimes it gets absurd; sometimes I’m quite happy with it. And sometimes I’ll spin some nonsense story, it will fall flat and everyone will stare at me. Sometimes it works, and everybody has a good time.”

The Business (Posi-Tone, 2011) is a milestone in the career of Nick Hempton. Since arriving in the USA from his native Australia in 2004, the 35-year-old saxophonist, composer, and bandleader has slowly but surely worked his way up the ladder of the notoriously competitive New York City jazz scene. Hempton’s second date as a leader is a testament to his talent, dedication, hard work, and to a willingness not to take himself too seriously. The disc is distinguished by an unusually cohesive band of strong-minded individuals, compositions by Hempton that sound genuinely original even as they stay within the broad confines of the jazz mainstream and, perhaps most importantly, his mature, assured voice as a soloist.

A Band Sound

All About Jazz: Congratulations on the release of The Business. It’s definitely a worthy successor to Nick Hempton Band (Self Produced, 2009), your first date as a leader.

Nick Hempton: I feel like it’s not an improvement but a development from the first record. I actually listened to the first album about a month or so ago. I’m happy with it. It still stands up. The band as a whole has developed over the last few years. And I think that the band sound is really what I’ve been going for.

AAJ: That’s one of impressive things about the new record. It really does have a band sound. These days, that’s something unique.

NH: There’s more and more of that happening. There are people putting bands together with the same guys. But I still think that it’s a relative rarity. I think that it’s very obvious—you can hear it straight away when a band’s been working together for a long time, as opposed to a pick-up group. In the old days they used to talk about keeping a band together. I think that’s a concept that really doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe in the ’50s you could tour enough with a band, and constantly work as a unit. Unless you’re someone like Branford Marsalis, you can’t do that. For most people, I think, that’s beyond us. Having the same guys working together once a month or so—that’s about as close as we can get.

AAJ: It’s really a shame that the economics work against it.

NH: Well, there are really a lot of factors as to why that kind of thing doesn’t happen anymore.

AAJ: There used to be a circuit—in this country, anyway—of clubs where bands could work on an ongoing basis. Certain bands would tour for six months a year. Louis Hayes used to tell me stories about working regularly with Horace Silver.

NH: I’ve heard those stories, too. That sounds like a dream to us now.

AAJ: Even though guys didn’t always love being on the road, at least they worked consistently and bands got tight that way. You can hear the results of it on their records.

NH: Horace Silver is a great example of that. He had the ideal working band sound, with the same guys working really hard for ages, touring a lot and making records. Those were some of the tightest bands ever, I think. That’s what we’re all aiming for. We all do what we can.

Working with a Producer

AAJ: How did you make the connection with Marc Free of Posi-Tone Records?

NH: I think I bugged Marc for a couple of years. When we made the first record—I put that out myself—I contacted him when I had the masters ready. We had a couple of meetings, and he liked it. But I guess it wasn’t the right time for either one of us. I called him after it came out, and it was reviewed quite well and was getting radio play. I got in touch and told him we were getting ready to do another one. And I guess he thought we were all ready to work together. It worked out really well.

AAJ: Describe the differences between working with a producer and an established record label as opposed to doing everything yourself.

NH: I would say that having a label has it pros and cons. I kind of got used to having complete control over the product. Having said that, Marc has been very good in working with me. There’s a lot of give-and-take in our working relationship. I don’t feel like decisions have been made that I’m not happy with. It’s been a very positive experience. It takes a lot of pressure off the band to have a producer who says, “This is what I want.” And then we have a discussion. The entire weight isn’t on my shoulders. It makes things easier. Also, it took a lot of pressure off of me in terms of putting out the entire record.

Adding the Tenor Saxophone

AAJ: Unlike your first record, in which you played the alto exclusively, there are a couple of tracks on The Business featuring your tenor saxophone. Was the tenor your first horn? Please comment on your decision to include the tenor on the new record.

NH: Alto was definitely my first horn. When I was living in Sydney, there were jazz gigs, but not as many as one hoped for. So we did things such as rock ‘n’ roll, R & B, and various other kinds of gigs. At that point, I played jazz on alto and rock ‘n’ roll on tenor. I would put the tenor into the jazz gigs now and again, but it was never really a focus. For the last few years, I felt like playing it more and more, and have put more work into it. It’s not equal to the alto or anything, but more and more I’m trying to get it in there. It’s been really interesting to me. I’m learning the differences between the two horns. Like I say, I’ve played both of them side by side for years, and now I’m working out the real intricacies of the two instruments, like tone production and technique. I’m hoping it’s going to change and develop.

AAJ: Based on the record’s two tenor tracks, the character of your improvising on the instrument is a little different than on alto. It’s kind of a nice change.

NH: It is a change. In fact, in the studio, Yotam Silberstein, who plays guitar with us—but doesn’t play with the band that often—says that from alto to tenor it sounded like two different guys. I’m kind of happy with that because I think that you have to treat them as two different instruments. Like, playing my alto licks on tenor just sounds like an alto player playing tenor. I’m working on getting a different vocabulary on both horns. Eventually the idea will be to meld some sort of style that works on both of them.

AAJ: Sonny Stitt’s playing on alto and tenor created very different sounds.

NH: He’s really the guy I look at for inspiration. I think he’s been my favorite saxophonist forever. Tone-wise, he’s the guy I copied on alto most of all. No so much on tenor because I must say that I like his alto playing better than his tenor playing. You’re right, I think he has quite different styles on the two of them. His tenor playing seems to go back to much older styles.

Stable Personnel

AAJ: With one exception, the personnel is the same on both records. You’ve managed to keep a band together for the past few years despite the challenges of finding steady work. What’s your secret?


From left: Dan Aran, Marco Panascia, Nick Hempton, Art Hirahara
NH: It’s not really keeping the guys together. As much as I’d like to have them on a salary like the old days, that’s not really the case. I think that we work often enough, but not too often. They’re always ready and looking forward to the next gig that comes along. They’re not getting bored with the material and taking some other gig instead of mine. Generally, the guys have a great time playing. That may be the secret behind it. That’s really what I want to bring to the bandstand—the band having a good time—because I think it will lead to the audience having a good time. I think that’s really it. The guys just enjoy doing it.

AAJ Please offer your impressions of the band and their contributions to The Business.

AAJ: I think that the reason the band works well together is because [bassist] Marco Panascia, [drummer] Dan Aran, and [pianist] Art Hirahara have different personalities. I was just lucky that it worked out that way when I put the band together. It’s wasn’t really scientific. I just found the guys that I liked the sound of. Marco is a great swinger. He loves nothing more than to swing at a medium tempo, laying down a solid groove. Art’s very adventurous. He likes to stretch out, and takes me in new directions. Dan has an extremely strong groove, and also takes inspirations from world music and other styles of music. He has really open ears. So he brings all styles of music to the band. Certainly, all three of them push me in directions I have never gone before, every time we play together.

So that’s certainly what keeps it interesting for me. I think that it’s possible to play with the same guys for years, and it would become boring, but I’ve never felt that way. Hopefully, that comes across on the record. Generally, that’s how I feel when we’re playing on stage—and even in that fairly uncomfortable studio setting.

AAJ: The studio is a rather sterile environment.

NH: It’s not made for great creativity. It’s fighting against that. But even in the studio I found that they were introducing new ideas and really pushing me to go in different directions, which is quite a talent on their part.
The Business

AAJ: What exactly does The Business refer to?

NH: Many different things. Obviously, the music business. It’s [also] an expression that we use in Australia and in England, which never really came across here. I can’t think of a version that you would be able to print. It actually means “the shit”—we’re laying something down, and this is the way it is.

AAJ:The real thing, or something like that.

NH: Exactly. That’s what I meant. I was aware it didn’t really mean that in this country. It means enough other things that it’s going to work on other levels as well. So we pushed a little bit with the record label. I think that Marc was a bit nervous about it. It was one the battles that I managed to win.

A Sense of Humor

AAJ: Your absurd sense of humor comes out in website posts, the liner notes of the first record, and some of the titles of your original compositions. Does humor surface in live shows as well?

NH: Well, I like to think so. Certainly, I like to have a chat with the audience between songs. Sometimes it gets more absurd than others. Sometimes I’m quite happy with it. And sometimes I’ll spin some nonsense story, and it will fall flat and everyone will stare at me, which is ok. And sometimes it works, and everybody has a good time. I know that when I go to hear a performance, if it’s just song after song, it may be great, but I like the break and getting to know the performers—even if it’s not a description of the music exactly, just some kind of vocalization of what’s going on the stage.

AAJ: It makes the audience feel closer to the performer.

NH: Absolutely. And it comes naturally to me. I’m quite happy to pick up a microphone and just talk nonsense for awhile. There’s not much of that on the new record, sadly. There wasn’t the room for it. I quite enjoyed the liner notes on the first one, because I could do whatever I wanted. There was nobody telling me that there’s no place for this kind of nonsense on a CD jacket.

AAJ: The notes on the first record were a refreshing change from the serious, art-for-art’s-sake kind of stuff on most liners.

NH: I could have done that, but it didn’t really feel like me. I like to have a laugh at ourselves when we’re playing this music. We’re not changing the world. It’s jazz. We’re having a good time. You have to have a sense of humor about yourself and about your band mates and the type of music you’re playing. That’s kind of how I feel about it. I would feel strange to put out an album with deadly serious liner notes telling about how important that music was.

Consistency and Change

AAJ: On The Business, you’ve added Yotam Silberstein’s guitar on three tracks, and Art Hirahara plays electric piano on one track. Despite these changes in instrumentation, the band’s overall sound remains consistent and the record hangs together quite well as a whole. Even on a funky track like “Cold Spring Fever,” it still sounds like the Nick Hempton Band.

NH:That’s the best thing I could possibly hope for. I’m certainly glad you said that. I like to have a little bit of a change in there. The band is a quartet. Yotam has been part of the band from the beginning, at various times, especially if there’s the money for a quintet, or Art can’t make it. He’s always been part of the organization. I thought that dropping him in on three or four tracks would be a good idea, to just change things up a little bit. And with the electric piano, we’ve always done plenty of gigs where is no piano, which is never an ideal circumstance. So we kind of got used to this idea of the Rhodes sound in the band, and I wanted that sound on this record. And I wanted to have that with the guitar to sort of bring a whole new sound to the thing, but like you say, keeping the band together and a similar sound to the rest of it.

Do you remember a club in the East Village called Louis 649? The place is still there, but they don’t have music anymore. It was sort of an instrumental club for us. We used to play there every couple of weeks. It was a great club. No cover charge. The times we played, it was always packed. We did Friday nights there. The place had no piano, so we brought the keyboard along. I think that’s what really got the Rhodes sound into the band.

Non-Original Compositions

AAJ: Aside from your original compositions, you’ve chosen some tunes that aren’t often played by modern jazz musicians. Benny Carter’s “Lonely Woman” is on Nick Hempton Band. Don Redman’s “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” appears on The Business. The new record also includes a Rahsaan Roland Kirk composition that references Sidney Bechet, Don Byas and Fats Waller. Please explain your affinity for these songs.

NH: I’m really happy that I found the “Lonely Woman” tune on the first record. It’s such a great song. I learned it from Sarah Vaughan’s version. She did it in a session from the ’50s, withCannonball Adderley playing lead alto in a big band. It’s beautiful. She’s just heartbreaking. I learned it years ago, and we play it every now and again. When the first record came out, I was really into playing sad ballads—the most heartbreaking ballads I could find. The lyrics of the song are just devastating. I just had to try to get it down, and I’m glad I did because not many people play the song.

I’ve been listening to Roland Kirk forever. A teacher early on said that a lot of people overlook Roland Kirk. He wasn’t just some sort of novelty with the three horns and that kind of stuff—he was one of the best tenor players ever. And I realized that it’s true. Whatever horn he’s playing, it’s just beautiful lines. I started getting into his playing and composing. That track on the record is actually two tunes stuck together. It didn’t end up that way on the record cover; I think there wasn’t enough room to put that on there. Halfway through the tune, you’ll notice it speeds up, and it becomes a tune called “Rolando,” which is another Roland Kirk tune. I was glad to put something by him on there because not a lot of people play his tunes.

AAJ: The acceleration into the fast tempo works very well.

NH: We had a couple of gigs where that was not always the case— close to a train wreck. Fortunately, it worked quite well on the record.

The other one was “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You.” It’s one of the tunes that often comes up with the traditional-style players, who I love. It’s a great old tune.
Traditional-Style Playing

AAJ: You just used the phrase “traditional-style players.” It seems that the traditional players are a little more deliberate: storytellers with a narrative flow instead of cats just running licks. There is a lot of that in your playing, particularly the narrative flow aspect. It’s more like human speech, rather than someone simply trying to burn.

NH: I’m glad it sounds that way. I feel like that’s the way my playing is headed. Like I said, the Sonny Stitt style of alto playing is where I came from—and there’s a lot of running changes in that. I think I’m moving more and more away from that to just playing melodies.

There’s a lot more interplay between musicians in traditional styles. I find that in modern jazz there seems to be a lot of soloing and accompaniment. One guy is tearing it up and the others are supporting him. But in the traditional style of playing there’s always interplay between the horns—the front line—and the rhythm section. There’s real group improvisation. That’s what I love about it.