David Hazeltine

The Time Is Now
(Smoke Sessions)

All evidence suggested that the new album from David Hazeltine was going to be a thing of wonder. The veteran pianist had written a sturdy set of originals with a trio in mind and chosen a nice selection of standards and pop-oriented covers. More importantly, he brought in two legendary players, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Al Foster, to join him on the session. While there are moments when the stars align on The Time Is Now and some genuine sparks start to fly, the overall mood of the album is surprisingly starchy and stiff.

Much of that feeling is the result of Foster’s performance on the album. The drummer opts for a minimalist approach, relying primarily on ride cymbal strides, punctuated with little splashes of snare. It’s an interesting approach that leaves a lot of space for Hazeltine and Carter to dash around in, but it feels tentative and often unsteady. He serves the music better on tracks when he sticks to brushes, giving “In A Sentimental Mood” and the bobbing “Cabin In The Sky” a warm flush.

Carter keeps a steady, if indistinct, hand on these tracks. He seems perfectly content to provide the ballast, so that Hazeltine can bob and dance like a leaf in the wind. The pianist is in fine form; high in the mix and dashing off languid melodies, marked by angular flourishes and punchy ostinatos. He sounds like he’s in his element in the full trio setting, even more so on his solo cover of James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” where his sound evokes a flow from gentle courtship into giddy thrall with ease. If only the rest of The Time Is Now could have been infected with that same energy.

On Sale Now
June 2019
Jeremy Pelt
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