Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Craig Hartley: Books on Tape Vol. 1

Skidoo Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Books on Tape Vol. 1

This is the debut album from 31-year-old pianist/composer Craig Hartley, although he’s well known around the New York City area. He’s another highly educated musician, having attended the Manhattan School of Music, New York’s New School, and Hartt Music School, in Hartford, Connecticut. He has worked with many of the well known Big Apple artists, and has performed in most of the city’s jazz clubs.  

All but one of the tunes on this release are Hartley compositions; the one exception is “My Foolish Heart.” Aside from a couple of up-tempo swingers, the majority of the melodies are done at medium and balladic meters. His style evokes Bill Evans and Chick Corea, and it’s interesting to note that Hartley himself (on his own website) identifies his genre as classical, rather than jazz. That said, the first track here is a spirited and swinging tune he calls “Dial 411” ... and if that isn’t true jazz, I don’t know what is. 

Liner notes provide background comments for each of the nine tunes.

Hartley and the other two members of his trio are excellent musicians: Bassist Carlo De Rosa is stunning on his instrument, and drummer Henry Cole is extremely tasty. Trumpeter Fabio Morgera, featured on two tracks, also is first-class. 

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the audio mixing and mastering. On several tracks, the volume of Hartley’s left hand overwhelms that of his right; this is particularly evident at slower tempos, and it tends to mask his marvelous melodic lines and solo work. 

Hartley and his group are a force to be reckoned with, and their future looks bright.

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