THE SONG GOES ON: So you are a linguistics professor in the Netherlands. You love jazz. You decide to go to New York City, record artists you like in a style and idiom that you adore - straightahead sounds that swing and don't forget to salute the blues nodding to bebop and beyond venturing into the modern-mainstream. Then you release these regularly and with care on your own label back home year in year out and find distributors to export them all over, both for home consumption and to reach out to kindred spirits abroad. That was what Gerry Teekens, the Gerry in the title, did. He passed away in 2019 aged 83 having founded Criss Cross 38 years earlier. His work ethic was relentless and the label counts far more than 400 titles in its catalogue. Teekens was also willing to take on new cohorts of players to inject their own ideas shaped by his outlook as to where the heart of jazz resides. And the message and the label continues and since his death we'd pick out David Binney's A Glimpse of the Eternal released last year as an example of the Criss Cross continuum and excellence often punching above its weight.
Pianist David Hazeltine here is hugely familiar to Criss Cross collectors.
The Milwaukee born 64-year-old who has been a leader since the 1990s, recording on labels in addition to Criss Cross that have included Sharp Nine, deepheads Japanese label Venus, Chesky and Smoke Sessions, is not a showy player at all and this picks up where 2010's Inversions left off recorded staggeringly in one session at the tail end of last year.
Bassist Peter Washington wonderful with the Heavy Hitters (descend certainly discerningly down that rabbit hole) and the swinging Wyntonian Joe Farnsworth - who is also on the latest Gabriel Latchin album and routes back to Inversions - are with Hazeltine on the date.
It is the treatment of Hoagy Carmichael's 'Skylark' that stays with us most and provides the spark of most enlightenment given its graceful presence. And it also certainly sends us afterwards helplessly but appropriately to Erroll Garner and a stirring 1949 recording released the following year savouring the moment following Blues for Gerry. The upcoming release includes Hazeltine numbers including the title track and a nuanced treatment of Cedar Walton's 'Firm Roots,' a piece that goes back to the 1970s Rochester, New York State, live album of the same name, Walton on Firm Roots (1976, Muse) with Sam Jones and Louis Hayes - an extremely hip choice and conjured meaningfully. Hazeltine has recorded with the Adderley great Hayes in recent years and the treatment works well in the context of all the swinging, bluesy Gerriana spread all over.
MORE READING AND LISTENING:
- Hazeltine heard on Louis Hayes' Exactly Right! - Savant, 2023
- Hazeltine heard on Hayes' Roses Poses - Savant, 2021
David Hazeltine can-do attitude, photo from the cover art