By Bill Milkowski | Published March 2021
A followup to their 2017 outing Conversations, this live 2019 concert recording from The Netherlands features longtime musical partners Don Braden and Joris Teepe, accompanied by Dutch pianist Rob Van Bavel and American-born drummer Owen Hart Jr. Van Bavel, a veteran of the European jazz scene, should be a revelation to Stateside jazz fans. His gifts become immediately apparent on the opener, a relaxed “Maiden Voyage” that finds the pianist flaunting chops and exploring with impunity on his solo. Braden’s bold-toned tenor solo is unrestrained and delightful here, though one misses the original version’s trumpet harmony. Teepe also delivers a virtuosic bass solo, while Hart exhibits a looseness and penchant for melodicism on the kit, buoying the proceedings.
Teepe’s brisk reimagining of “Watermelon Man”—full of reharmonization and intricate stop-time breaks—is fueled by Hart’s driving sense of swing and interactive abandon. Van Bavel is funky here, while also pushing the harmonic envelope during the spirited workout as he slyly alludes to “Giant Steps” in his solo.
The ensemble handles “Actual Proof” like a lush ballad and features some remarkably expressive playing by Braden. The quartet’s mellow rendition of “Butterfly” showcases Braden’s flute playing, then Van Bavel’s extended gospel flavored solo piano intro to “Driftin’” sets the tone for a 3/4 recreation of the soul-jazz classic. Teepe’s “Role Model” and Braden’s “The Ingenious Catalyst” also are firmly in the spirit of the album’s namesake.
In The Spirit Of Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage; Watermelon Man; Actual Proof; Speak Like A Child; The Ingenious Catalyst; Role Model; Butterfly; Driftin’; Yesterdays. (67:32)
Personnel: Don Braden, tenor saxophone, flute; Joris Teepe, bass; Rob Van Bavel, piano; Owen Hart Jr., drums.