Chris Hazelton After Dark (Cellar Music 2023)


We can face the music together. Dancing in the dark.



Chris Hazelton (organ), Brett Jackson (baritone saxophone), Jamie Anderson (guitar), John Kizilarmut (drums), Pat Conway (congas)


on Feb 19 & 20 at Weights & Measures Soundlab, Kansas City, Missouri


as Cellar Music in 2023

Track listing

Amsterdam After Dark
Easy Talk
Jammin’ At The Kirk
Night Lights
So Tired
The Groove Merchant
Watch What Happens

If anything fulfills the promise of acting as the number one night life jazz instrument, it’s the Hammond B3 organ. Preferably in combination with a saxophone. Nothing as bluesy and smoky and perfectly able to wash away the burdens of everyday life. Organist Chris Hazelton has plenty experience on this terrain and takes the wee wee hours as a loose theme on After Dark. Hazelton and his Kansas City crew are on the roster of the inimitable Cellar Music label, whose hip art work typically magnifies the emotional response its artists are aiming for.

Hazelton chose the baritone saxophone of Brett Jackson as partner-in-groove-crime, which gives the format a more heavy and gritty vibe than with the usual suspect, the tenor saxophone. In this respect, his most famous forebear no doubt is the George Benson/Lonnie Smith band of the mid-late-sixties featuring bari God, the lamented Ronnie Cuber. The groovinest giants! Less imposing, but interesting no less, is the session that maestro Jimmy Smith did in 1958 with Cecil Payne, which was released as Six Views Of The Blues by Blue Note in 1999. Over the years, James Carter has regularly used the baritone to full effect in his organ groups with Gerard Gibbs. A fabulous example of contemporary killer B3/bari-ism is Adam Scone’s Low & Slow featuring Ian Hendrickson-Smith, also a Cellar Music release.

These are the kind of tunes that you wanna hear when you’re out on the town. Toe-tapping stuff like Bobby Timmons’s So Tired, Jerome Richardson’s The Groove Merchant and – congratulations for dragging it our of obscurity – Easy Talk by Columbus, Ohio legend Hank Marr. Not to mention George Coleman’s Amsterdam After Dark, one of the songs where organ and baritone gel like burning rubber and gravel.

Nothing elicits that nocturnal vibe as good as Gerry Mulligan’s Night Lights, which speaks of someone in the wee-est of the wee wee hours at a table in a club, all the gin gone, cigarette dangling in his hand, staring into space and wondering what all this wandering in the asphalt desert is about, and about what not. Surprise pick: Michel Legrand’s Watch What Happens. We’re listening what happens, which is the whole band in full and tasteful swing, relishing Legrand’s stimulating harmonic movements.

Hazelton builds strong solo’s, sometimes ending them with a full-register climax, Wild Bill Davis-style. As in Kerry Strayer’s Jammin’ At The Kirk, which oozes swing jazz feeling, not surprisingly considering Hazelton’s roots in Kansas City. Heartening that, in a year of Hammond casualties, what with the passings of the sadly missed Joey DeFrancesco, Lonnie Smith and Reuben Wilson, there are solid guys like Chris Hazelton keeping the flame of the B3 burning.

Chris Hazelton

Find After Dark on Bandcamp here.