Todd Herbert Quartet
May Waltz
From the opening track, a dark, minor key blues entitled “Blue Visions,” you understand immediately where tenor saxophonist Todd Herbert is coming from. He proudly wears his bold, dark tone and urge to swing on his sleeve, like a medal earned from working in the post-bop trenches for many years.

With drummer Jason Brown laying a loosely interactive, mid-tempo swing groove, bassist John Webber stating a four-note phrase upfront before heading into an insistent and syncopated walk behind pianist David Hazeltine’s percussive and harmonically nuanced comping, Herbert digs in and deals with authority. The veteran pianist follows Herbert’s powerful stream of notes with the opposite approach in his own solo, hanging on just two notes at the beginning before stealthily creeping up on the changes, choosing finesse over fire while slyly dropping in a quote from “Summertime” along the way, just to remind us that they haven’t really strayed all that far from the blues on this tune. Brown puts up some old school spang-alang on the ride cymbal behind Hazeltine’ s solo and breaks up the beat in unpredictable ways on the snare as bassist Webber fairly swaggers behind him. It’s a potent opening track and portends of hip things to come on May Waltz.

Following the soulful overture that is “Blue Visions,” Herbert and his stellar crew leap into Wayne Shorter’s “This is for Albert” with unrestrained gusto. Once again, Herbert’s fluency on his horn and abundant chops are front and center on Shorter’s ode to jazz piano giant Bud Powell. Brown again fuels the proceedings with his tenacious swing, inventive accents, myriad syncopations and intricate polyrhythms on the kit while pacing the proceedings on the ride cymbal before bursting loose for a tightly orchestrated flurry on the kit. Hazeltine’s relaxed, swinging solo here, brimming with harmonic ingenuity and quicksilver lines, shows why he is regarded as one of best modern post-bop pianists of his generation.

Herbert’s lilting title track finds him blowing over a 3/4 modal groove as Brown provides the busy polyrhythmic undercurrent. Coming out of the head, the tenorist soars into to exhilarating heights on his solo as Hazeltine comps steadily and Brown cooks behind them. Hazeltine’s piano solo here is playful yet swinging, interspersed with some dazzling right-hand filigrees along the way.

The standard “Just in Time” is taken at a lightning pace that would intimidate most tenor players. Hazeltine’s bright, sharply rhythmic “Face to Face” is informed by conversational fills from active drummer Bro,w and a steady walking bass line from Webber. The pianist solos first in quintessential hard bop fashion before Herbert unleashes with another inspired solo to take things up a notch.

On a gorgeous reading of the standard “My Old Flame,” Herbert takes his time and blows lyrically on the melancholy torch song. And he nonchalantly double-times on his solo, adding daredevil flourishes and more intensity to the proceedings. Hazeltine lays back in a relaxed solo here.

Dizzy Gillespie’s infectious “Manteca” finds Hazeltine comping the tongue-in-cheek chant (“I’ll never go back to Georgia”) from Dizzy’ s intro to this seminal Afro-Cuban tune. Herbert wails over the changes here in typically blistering fashion as Hazeltine provides some son montuno comping behind him before launching into his own sparkling solo. And dig that tumbao groove from Webber!

May Waltz concludes on a scintillating note with a burning rendition of Freddie Hubbard’s “Birdlike”. With driving accompaniment from Hazeltine’s syncopated comping, Webber’s deep groove and Brown’s snap-crackle on the kit, Herbert digs deep on this flagwaver,which stands as an homage to the late trumpeter who became both his mentor and employer for many years. And the whole crew engages in some rapid-fire trading of fours before bringing the smoking Freddie homage to a close.
There is no hyphen in Herbert’s game. This is straight up jazz.

Todd Herbert: Tenor Saxophone
David Hazeltine: Piano
John Webber: Bass
Jason Brown: Drums

1. Blue Visions 6:09 (Todd Herbert)
2. This Is for Albert 5:38 (Wayne Shorter)
3. May Waltz 5:56 (Todd Herbert)
4. Just In Time 4:02 (Jule Stein; Betty Comdon; Adolph Green)
5. Face To Face 5:38 (David Hazeltine)
6. My Old Flame 7:38 (Arthur Johnston; Sam Coslow)
7. Manteca 7:22 (Dizzy Gillespie; Chano Pozo; Gil Fuller)
8. Birdlike 6:17 (Freddie Hubbard)

Recorded At GB’s Juke Joint
Long Island City Queens, NY
Recording, Mixing, and Mastering By Colin Mohnacs
Cover Picture by Ted Herbert

Todd Herbert Quartet "May Waltz"

Going for Radio Adds
June 24, 2022
File: Jazz

Todd’s Picks: 1,3,7
Kate’s Picks: 1,5,6

Listen to: “Blue Visions

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