The Frank Hewitt Trio: Fresh from the Cooler

The classic trio of the unfashionably brilliant bop pianist, on excellent ballad form -- his first recording date issued at last.

The Frank Hewitt Trio

Fresh from the Cooler

Label: Smalls
US Release Date: 2006-10-10
UK Release Date: 2006-10-10

This was the classic Hewitt trio, known to too few, not to be heard on record during the pianist's lifetime, taped by the man who created Smalls Records with a view toward issuing Hewitt's and other recordings from the performance venue the label's named for.

The English critic and pianist who declared Hewitt "no Barry Harris" would have been correct had he meant only that Hewitt was a very different pianist from Harris. I presume that, like quite a number of jazzmen or artists in whatever medium, that musician-critic had priorities of his own running counter to Hewitt's but not Harris's.

He might have taken more to the opener of this first of two CDs from Hewitt's initial session, recorded on his usual venue's piano behind closed doors. "I Waited for You" is a beautiful ballad performance, comparable nicely enough with what Harris does. The musicians were plainly well set to play ballads throughout that date, to judge also from a ten-and-a-half-minute "I Can't Get Started" on which Hewitt deploys a singing tone. Ari Roland's bass solo, with bare fingers rather than the bow Roland uses so often, also sings nicely on what is a beautiful little performance.

That little performance comes to a happy end with the bassist up front beside the pianist. Whereupon -- continuing a long track, an extended performance -- Hewitt begins to solo at a higher level of development, followed by bowed work from Roland which is possibly the best recording I have heard of him. On later recordings, his regular bowed solos have sometimes sounded a bit hard and forward, but here he's lighter. Prettier.

The two ballads are separated by a performance of George Shearing's "Conception", which culminates in a forceful drum solo from the late Jimmy Lovelace, who gets another workout on a "Cherokee". On that one, according to the notes, rather than play his more usual extended intro, Hewitt had the bassist and drummer set a rapid pace. It used to be a cliché in discussions of bop pianists to whom Hewitt can be compared, Hampton Hawes for one major instance, that they did actually manage to translate to the keyboard the qualities of a bop saxophone solo. That certainly applies in this case. It's relevant to questions raised by his label's management about why Hewitt went so long unrecorded that the pianist on this date opined with regret that nobody these days seemed to play at high speed. Hewitt could, and he knew what he wanted to do.

"Tenor Madness" was a nice choice for the piano trio, beside the ancient challenge of "Cherokee". Though Hewitt was obviously in a frame of mind to deliver exceptional ballad performances on this date, he liked to refresh himself and listeners with some spirited liveliness. Cleanse the palate.

Spritzer numbers apart, following the unaccompanied intro to Horace Silver's "Peace", Hewitt's ballad performance is further indication of his general state of mind on May 10th, 1996. He wasn't stuck in a ballad rut like some pianists have been. Relaxed, nothing mechanical, free-spirited, he was.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.