CONCERT REVIEW – NICK HEMPTON BAND
Live from GB’s Juke Joint in New York City, lockdown-audience of camera men and engineer, comes saxophonist Nick Hempton and his band featuring guitarist Peter Bernstein, organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Fukushi Tainaka. Having a ball. Nick Hempton, typically sharp-dressed jazz cat out there to entertain folks with sophisticated and accessible hard bop, presents tunes from both his latest release Night Owl and forthcoming album, nameless to date.
Hempton puts myriad edgy dots on his fluent tenor sentences, embellishing his husky sound with mischievous smears and slurs here, witty halve valve shenanigans there (wit is reflected as well through his stage manner, notably the introduction of the masked band: “.. the very handsome Kyle Koehler – Please control yourself, people!”) Hempton’s soulful tenor ignites cooker Back On The Dole, the lightly groovin’ Latin-tinged The Cove Crawl and the blues-based Night Owl (shuffle) and Tenth Street Turnaround (fat bounce), the latter highlighting the agile Koehler, who finds his most intense and crunchy groove of the evening.
The band hits its tightest pocket on Short Shrift, crisp, up-tempo cooker featuring a nifty and archetypical stop-time device. Short Shrift and Ellington’s ballad It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream feature Hempton on alto sax, equally adept as on tenor, simultaneously lyrical and meaty and with hip inflections of the blues especially on It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream. The ballad reading by ace guitarist Peter Bernstein, enthusiastic and in fine form throughout, is especially touching and reveals a passion for one of his great forebears, Grant Green.
In his own way Hempton extends the uplifting vibe of giant fellows like Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, their mixture of heat and excellence. Timeless real jazz, hopefully to be enjoyed again in a live audience setting as soon as possible.