Friday, December 29, 2017

Steve Heckman & Matt Clark - Some Other Time / Slow Café (2017)

Some Other Time/Slow Cafe is Steve Heckman’s 6th album to date, although he has been a featured soloist on numerous other jazz albums over the years. This is also the 5th album on which Steve collaborates with piano virtuoso Matt Clark. These tracks, taken from 2 recording sessions, reflect perhaps the most intimate and reflective sides of Steve and Matt’s playing to date. The additional space created by the absence of bass and drums sets the stage for creative explorations of mood and textural nuance which might not have been achieved in a standard quartet/quintet setting.

The album includes 4 originals (3 by Steve, 1 by Matt), as well as 8 standards, including a number of relatively rarely- heard tunes such as Monk’s “Ugly Beauty”, Duke Pearson’s “Is That So?” and Fred Lacey/Mark Stevens’ moving tribute to the late alto saxophonist Ernie Henry, “Theme for Ernie.” “Some Other Time”, one of Leonard Bernstein’s most beautiful popular songs (co-written with Betty Comden and Adolph Green) is the centerpiece of one of these 2 sessions, performed here with delicacy and finesse, and capturing the almost timeless mood evoked by the song’s title. Also presented in an impressionistic fashion is Jimmy Rowles’ gem, “The Peacocks”, while interspersed among these more introspective pieces are a number of up-tempo explorations, including the burners, “Get Happy” and “Jeannine”, as well as an up-tempo version of the standard “I Should Care.” Notable among the original tunes are 2 waltzes, including Matt’s haunting “Foregone Conclusions” and “Sheila’s Sunday Song”, written by Steve, as well as Steve’s tribute to one of his influences, Lee Konitz (“Admiring-Lee”). Slow Café, the other centerpiece, offers a marked departure, in that it is a funky, Gospel-influenced original by Steve, which fits well as a concluding piece to this satisfying set of material. 

Steve’s playing has been praised by saxophonists as diverse as Charles Lloyd ("A beautiful talent"), Pharoah Sanders ("This cat can play!"), and Stan Getz ("Beautiful!"). Matt Clark has performed with saxophonists Teddy Edwards, Frank Morgan, Eric Alexander, and Vincent Herring, as well as vibrophonist Bobby Hutcherson.

Multi-reedman Steve Heckman has played with such notables as trumpeters Eddie Henderson, Howard McGhee, Chet Baker, and Tom Harrell; trombonist Roswell Rudd; pianists Andrew Hill, Benny Green, Jessica Williams, Jim McNeely, George Cables and Larry Vuckovich; guitarists John Abercrombie, Cal Collins, Mimi Fox, and Bruce Foreman; drummers Jimmy Cobb, Billy Higgins, Eddie Moore, Donald Bailey and Pete Escovedo; saxophonists Andrew Speight and Noel Jewkes; and vocalists Jackie Ryan, Madeline Eastman, Judy Wexler, Julie Kelly, Kellye Gray, Buddy Connor, and Frankye Kelly. His work has been praised by saxophonists as diverse as Stan Getz, Charles Lloyd, and Pharoah Sanders. 

Steve’s 1st and 2nd CD’s (“With John in Mind” and “Live at Yoshi’s”) received international praise, the latter selected by Andrew Gilbert of the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the top 11 CDs by a Bay Area jazz musician in 2005. Steve’s 3rd CD as a leader, “Born to be Blue” (Jazzed Media)) featured New York guitar virtuoso Howard Alden, internationally acclaimed drummer Akira Tana, Bay Area icon bassist Marcus Shelby, and keyboard wizard Matt Clark; it had the distinction of remaining on the Jazz Week charts for 12 weeks, peaking at #19 of the top 50 jazz CDs for U.S./Canada airplay, while his 4th CD, Search for Peace (same personnel as Born to Be Blue, also on Jazzed Media) hit #10 on the Jazz Week charts and #3 on the Roots Music Report. Steve’s 5th CD, Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute is a heart-felt tribute to Steve’s primary influence, also receiving national acclaim. 

Tim Price (Saxophone Journal), a highly-respected saxophonist himself, wrote: “This is a kick-ass saxophonist with finesse… Heckman's sound on tenor is world-class.” Other comments: "Virtuosic command of his horns” (Jazz Times); "Some of the best music … anywhere (Jazz Now)." Steve has been featured on 14 other CDs (San Francisco Chamberjazz Quartet with Gini Wilson/Jackie Ryan; Dick Conte; Chuck Metcalf; Gerald Beckett; Heikki Koskinen; Frankye Kellye; Fran Foston; Jesse Foster; Martha Blackard).

Ugly Beauty
Some Other Time
Get Happy
Foregone Conclusions
Theme For Ernie
I Should Care
Sheila's Sunday Song
Is That So?
The Peacocks
Slow Café