Originally posted on February 5, 2008
From electric yesterday to acoustic today. I refer to the Frank Hewitt Trio. Hewitt was a jazz pianist in the tradition of such boppers as Monk, Bud Powell, and Elmo Hope. He died in this decade with recognition only starting to come his way. In no tiny part that recognition had to do with his playing at the NYC club Smalls, that gave him a steady gig and also recorded his performances.
The latest CD is called Out of the Clear Black Sky (Smalls) and it is a joyful and idiosyncratic romp through some jazz standards. Now when you see “Misty” or “The Girl from Ipanema” on a song list, you might assume that you are in for a stereotypical club session. Not so here. Frank devotes personal attention to every song on this CD, giving his own unconventional spin on every phrase. There is a seemingly relaxed, almost casual approach to his instrument, but he fully centers every moment on what he intends. That is in part what a great jazzman can do—make the complicated sound simple and instantaneously a part of that very moment of creation. Here is a man who was ignored by the jazz establishment much of his life. He fully deserves the attention he is getting now.