Innovating in a crowded space is never easy, but there is always room for a talented artist to create an impression even within an established genre. That is exactly what Craig Hartley does with his ‘Books on Tape Vol. 1’ piano trio recording. Great compositions, improvisation and playing; my favorite piano trio yet this year.
Musical Genre: Jazz
Where to buy: iTunes
Artist: Craig Hartley
From the artist:
This album represents an interpretation of some of my musical and life experiences translated into song. included in the liner notes are brief descriptions of my thoughts and inspirations for each of the works in order to provide you with some background on myself and how these songs are inherent products of my life.
Bottom line – this is a very impressive debut recording by pianist Hartley, deftly aided by bassist Carlo De Rosa and drummer Henry Cole and guests Fabio Margera on trumpet and vocalist Dida Pelled.
The album kicks off strong with Dial 411, which the liner notes say is done in tribute to the great pianist Gary Dial. This song hooked me immediately and is a statement – of the type of music, the level of musicianship, and the quality of the compositions and interplay.
There is a single cover – ‘My Foolish Heart’ – and it is an arrangement that feels personal and intimate, a familiar take on a classic that allows the group to really tee off from the core harmonic structure and stretch out.
On three of Hartley’s compositions he features guests: Fabio Margera adds trumpet on ‘Why Not’ and ‘Just For Me’, and Dida Pelled sings on ‘I Should Love You More’. In each case the guest adds to the song, making it feel more like an integral part of the composition than a ‘guest spot’. And he states as much in the notes, that ‘I Should Love You More’ was written in a style that he felt would be enhanced with vocals – and I agree. The same is true for the tracks featuring Margera, his voice feels at home in the composition, where it would have been superfluous on other tracks.
The rhythm section of De Rosa and Cole are the rhythmic and harmonic foundation, and are given plenty of time and space, which they use wisely to create a great musical environment for improvisation. But ultimately the star here is Craig Hartley, who shows the ability to swing, be lyrical, funky and generous with his phrasing and note placement. This is a very solid debut that marks Hartley as someone to watch.
‘Quick Hit’ Song: “Dial 411” – starting right out of the gate with an intensity and ferocity that puts you on notice, this song is infectious and I just seem to keep coming back to it again and again. It is also a song that immediately feels stylistically unique and features a voice that is strong and clear – which got me interested in listening to the whole album.
Would I recommend?: Absolutely! Hartley clearly positions himself as a force to be reckoned with on his debut. With a solid group and engaging compositions, each repeated listen reveals more and more.
Suggested audience: Any fan of piano trio music such as Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett or Vijay Iyer will enjoy this recording.
Price: $10.99 on iTunes.
Source: Publisher provided review CD
Here is the trio playing the standard ‘Caravan’: