Skidoo 2012 / Craig Hartley 2013
Ivories-tinkling the old way, New England jazz maestro shifts and swings in time, from the past and into the future.
There’s a perfect logic in this American pianist’s decision to release his debut in Europe before taking it to his home base. Mentored by the likes of Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton, the 31-year-old took his time to avoid the “prodigy” label and now stitches the Old World elegance to the more progressive tropes that, on a composition level, lead Hartley beyond the keyboard and, genre-wise, attract rock and avant-garde moves. The bottom of such a disposition is bared in the two distinctly different approaches to the Bach-referencing “Just For Me” and the vibrant, elegantly sparse cover of “My Foolish Heart”: the latter, gaining pace and Carlo De Rosa’s bass throb, along the way, throws a stylistic bridge to Craig’s own “I Should Love You More” where Dida Pelled delivers a slightly mannered, albeit soulful, vocal, while a shorter, less jiving and smoother, version of the former, the album’s 8-minute finale, sees the base trio expanded with Fabio Morgera who adds a high-flying trumpet solo to its
Yet Hartley doesn’t waste time on preparing the listener to it all, launching from the off into the flurry of the Garry Dial tribute “Dial 411” which bops back to the pre-war dancehalls but deliberately stumbles into the modern kind of cool and lets Henry Cole’s drums to the fore. “Froghollow” and the title ballad, though, sound deliciously retro, althought their ripples hint at fusion only to ebb away as the pieces’ dynamic scope grows before a delicate, if assertive, four-string solo punctures their floating feel and a piano goes skittering. Jazz-rock reigns over “Why Not” that’s stricken with Morgera’s brass and offering a swirl of a trip towards the bliss of “K2?” – all splashes and flashes of various intensity, offset by the rhythm section, but gripping through and through. The same can be said about the whole record meaning a new force has arrived at the scene.