Nick Hempton Band at GB’s Juke Joint

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.

Nick Hempton Band

Nick Hempton (tenor and alto saxophone)
Peter Bernstein (guitar)
Kyle Koehler (organ)
Fukushi Tainaka (drums)

Live stream recorded on December 28 at GB’s Juke Joint, New York City.

Go to Nick Hempton’s website here.

Find the GB’s Juke Joint show on demand here

Tom van der Zaal Time Will Tell (Self-Released 2019)

NEW RELEASE – TOM VAN DER ZAAL

Not-quite-so-young lion alert: Tom van der Zaal’s hard bop gem Time Will Tell.

Tom van der Zaal - Time Will Tell

Personnel

Tom van der Zaal (alto saxophone), Floriaan Wempe (tenor saxophone), Rob van Bavel (piano), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Matheus Nicolaiewsky (bass), Joost van Schaik (drums)

Recorded

in 2019 at Fattoria Musica, Osnabrück

Released

in 2019

Track listing

A Not So Beautiful Friendship
Favela Chic
Dilemma
Enrichment
Smile
Time Will Tell
The Ballpark Fence
The Gospel Song


The Netherlands is solid as regards to young reed and brass players that recreate the classic mainstream jazz aesthetic in their own image. Among a bunch that includes tenor saxophonists Florian Wempe and Gideon Tazelaar and trumpeters Gidon Nunez Vas and Ian Cleaver, Tom van der Zaal is one of the to-go-to alto saxophonists, a product of the rich heritage of (hard) bop city #1, The Hague.

The manner in which now and then some young birds bring appetizing goodies to the family is heartening. Time Will Tell is such produce, a contemporary take on the classic 50’s/60’s style that was epitomized on the Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse labels. Van der Zaal is assisted by the brilliant Dutch veteran pianist Rob van Bavel, bassist Matheus Nicolaieswky and drummer Joost van Schaik. Floriaan Wempe performs on two tracks. Also present, on four compositions, rabbit in the hat and one of the greatest guitarists in mainstream jazz: Peter Bernstein. Bernstein oozes taste, as clear as plain day light once again on Time Will Tell, his umpteenth performance the last decade and part of an immense discography.

Van der Zaal’s gift of conjuring up fresh rhythmic variations and catchy songs reveals itself in Latin-inspired swingers Favela Chic and Enrichment, which live in the realm of vintage Carribean-tinged beauties like Joe Henderson’s Mamacita or Kenny Dorham’s Afrodisia. The fluent pulse of Dilemma is bookended by an elegiac part that hints at both Black Is The Color and the lengthy psalmodic intro’s of the John Coltrane Quartet. The ballad Time Will Tell runs along a particularly intriguing harmonic route. And what about the snappy, uptempo The Ballpark Fence? Considering the band’s firm push on the throttle, it is appropriate and perhaps not coincidental that the cover shows Van der Zaal kneeling beside a classy monster oldsmobile. To switch to baseball terms: the band hits it right out of the ballpark!

Tom van der Zaal is a lean leopard, light-legged, makes snappily phrased twists and turns and loves his quotes, as is the jazz leopard’s wont. Including the occasional unfeigned whoop or wail, his balanced playing goes to the heart of the melody. Van der Zaal and Wempe rip and roar through the friendly battle of fours and simultaneous improv of Favela Chic, which follow up the vibrant waterfalls and drops from the fountain that Rob van Bavel charms from the piano, supported by his trademark firm and obliquely voiced chords and wonderfully astute bass lines. Time Will Tell is right up the alley of Van Bavel, European class act who is a versatile seeker of new vistas but has remained rooted in hard bop ever since he’s been part of the spectacular Ben van den Dungen/Jarmo Hoogendijk Quintet in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Nowadays Van Bavel is pianist of the premier Dutch hard bop outfit The Eric Ineke JazzXPress.

Bernstein’s intro to Charlie Chaplin’s Smile is plainly gorgeous. Smile is the album’s surprising and swinging cover song and definitely appropriate. Because the energy and palpable enthusiasm of Van der Zaal & Co. on Time Will Tell ignite a broad smile from crown to chin.

Check out the website of Tom van der Zaal here.

Nick Hempton - Night Owl

Nick Hempton Night Owl (Triple-Distilled 2019)

NEW RELEASE – NICK HEMPTON

Gritty, entertaining and thoroughly modern. Saxophonist Nick Hempton’s Night Owl keeps the flame of organ combo jazz burning brightly.

Nick Hempton - Night Owl

Personnel

Nick Hempton (tenor & alto saxophone), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Kyle Koehler (organ), Fukushi Tainaka (drums)

Recorded

at G.B’s Juke Joint Night Club, New York City

Released

on Triple-Distilled in 2019

Track listing

Night Owl
I Remember Milady
After You’ve Gone
I’m A Fool To Want You
10th Street Turnaround
Corner Bistro
It Shouldn’t Happen In Dreams
Listen Hard, Speak Easy
Macao Mood


Nick Hempton has been a fixture on the New York scene since 2004. Besides notable cooperations with Roy Hargrove, Joe Magnarelli and Peter Bernstein, the Australia-born tenor and alto saxophonist has released five albums as a leader, four of which were recorded with the Nick Hempton Band, a group that brought him to venues and festivals around the globe. Cherishing a particular passion for classic 60’s organ jazz, Hempton has finally come around to produce a full-blown session of the archetypical format of sax, Hammond organ, guitar and drums. Assisted by guitar maestro Peter Bernstein, organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Fukushi Tainaka, Hempton presents a set of blues-based original tunes like the shuffle grooves Night Owl and Macao Mood, boogaloo-ish Corner Bistro, the Latin-tinged tune I Remember Milady, the greasy backbeat-driven Listen Hard, Speak Easy and ballads I’m A Fool To Want You and It Shouldn’t Happen In Dreams.

Night Owl is a hot barbecue, its smells mingling with chatter and claxons on the corner of Lexington & 110th Street, neon signs keeping an eye on the hustlers, smoke rings swirling around the customers of the dingiest bar uptown, sax wailing… The nightlife, it ain’t no good life, but it’s my life… The album combines barroom excitement with modern jazz finesse, the blend that is the prerequisite for first-rate soul jazz. The sax playing of Hempton is firmly on the forefront and shades of Stanley Turrentine, Dexter Gordon, Lou Donaldson and a sleazy and husky bite complete the accessible style that is all Hempton’s own.

Bernstein is his customary crystalline, slightly angular yet melodic self, Koehler is a lively, tasteful player and Tainaka’s accompaniment is meaty and swinging – Tainaka’s resume includes stints with Lou Donaldson, Lonnie Smith and Melvin Rhyne. At one time, during After You’ve Gone, the band’s flow might remind you of the fluent bop groove of Sonny Stitt’s organ group with Don Patterson. Stitt, by the way, followed a long line of interpreters of the composition like Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. Like his forefather, Hempton is the kind of guy that devours the harmonically active changes. A moment later the quartet delivers a slice of touching balladry. Hempton’s sweet-tart take on It Shouldn’t Happen In Dreams, subtle shifts of the beat underlining heartbreak and a sense of foreboding, is the mark of a thoroughly mature jazz musician. Night Owl is highly entertaining evidence of Hempton’s flexible and passionate approach of organ jazz.

Nick Hempton

Find Night Owl on Amazon here.

Check out Nick Hempton’s website here.