Thursday, February 5, 2009

Frank Hailey-Eric Zukoski Trio: An Old Sweet Song

Sea Breeze Jazz
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 2.5.09
Buy CD: An Old Sweet Song

Pianist Frank Hailey, bassist Eric Zukoski and drummer Michael Hailey have released their second album on the Sea Breeze label; the concept this time was to take a dozen quite familiar songs — some very old, some relatively new — and play them in a groovy, straight-ahead style. Almost everyone has heard these selections dozens of times, but not this way.

For good measure, the group also included two bonus tracks from an upcoming Christmas album; those don't fall in the “old sweet” category, but they're popular holiday favorites (“Sleigh Ride” and a variation on “We Three Kings”). The net result is a nice, lightly swinging set that will bring a smile to your face and keep your toes tapping.

With a caveat.

The usual jazz tradition is to begin with a first chorus that establishes the (familiar) melody; follow with additional choruses that use the same chord structure and progressions, but introduce new melodic lines; and then finish by returning to the basic melody, to conclude the performance. That isn't the case here; the basic melody is retained throughout each chorus, although it's embellished each time.

That, in conjunction with the fact that many of these tunes are relatively short to begin with, results in excess repetition.

Despite this quibble, the trio grooves nicely, and would sound great in a supper club venue.

And, frankly, it's wonderful to hear oldies like “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “The Blue Danube,” “Georgia,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Stormy Weather” modernized by musicians who are both good, and having a good time.

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