By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Books on Tape Vol. 2 — Standard Edition
Pianist/composer Craig Hartley seems a bit of a recluse; background information is rather sparse. This, the second of his (thus far) self-produced albums, features a typical piano, bass and drum trio. Hartley arranged all the tracks; one (“Just Wait”) is his own composition, and the rest are standards.
Bassist Carlo De Rosa is a well known New York artist who has worked with dozens of musicians and groups in the States and other countries, in both the jazz and classical genres. Drummer Jeremy “Bean” Clemons, born in St. Louis, moved to the Big Apple in 2003 and has been a first-call artist for many years.
These three fill this album with “polite” — and definitely swinging — jazz. Two selections are by Ellington: “Caravan” and “Mood Indigo.” The former is an up-tempo arrangement; the latter, usually performed as a slow, sexy, close-dance melody, emerges here at a mid-tempo, finger-snapping groove. It brings one of Duke’s favorite melodies to life.
Hartley’s handling of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” is one of the nicest interpretations of that chart I’ve ever heard; the time signature flips back and forth between 3/4, 4/4 and 5/4.
I’m particularly enchanted when standards from two different genres are blended, as when Bach’s Prelude No. 2 in C minor weaves in and out of Miles Davis’ “Solar”; they fit beautifully. “Imagine Peace Piece” is another mash-up: John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Bill Evans’ “Peace Piece.” The closer in the set, “Just Wait,” is a beautiful ballad.
This is an excellent album: mood music that is pure jazz in a relaxed and restful format.