Craig Hartley: Books On Tape, Vol. 1 (2013)
Hartley delivers nine trackseight originals and a sterling take on "My Foolish Heart" with the help of his trio mates; drummer Henry Cole, best known for his work with saxophonist Miguel Zenon, and bassist Carlo De Rosa round out this well-matched triangular outfit, alternately turning, churning or burning in tandem with Hartley.
The album begins with "Dial 411," a breakneck, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that honors Gary Dial, one of Hartley's teachers. Things settle into a calmer zone with "My Foolish Heart," which benefits greatly from his nuanced introduction, and the mood shifts from haunting to hopeful on the title track, a musical reminiscence about time spent sneaking into practice rooms at Yale University. The twisted "Why Not," which features a guest shot from trumpeter Fabio Morgera, is a nod to two of Hartley's on-the- bandstand mentorscomposer/bassist Mario Pavone and conceptualist/composer/multi-reedist Anthony Braxtonand "K2?" recalls voyeuristic days spent in a coffee shop of the same name.
The second half of the album has Hartley taking a stab at writing a standard-esque tune, with guest vocalist Dida Pelled's stretched-like-taffy lines drawing focus ("I Should Love You More"), and borrowing from J.S. Bach's "French Suite No. 5 in G Major" ("Just For Me"). Hartley also tips his cap to saxophonist Jackie McLean and trombonist Steve Davis ("Froghollow") and takes a second, livelier stab at his Bach-derived piece, with Morgera in play this time.
Books On Tape, Vol. 1 would be an engaging listen with or without the stories attached to the music, but the stories add volumes to the experience; they allow those on the receiving end to not only hear the music, but to see it as well, providing a multi-sensory trip into the musical mind of pianist Craig Hartley.
Track Listing: Dial 411; My Foolish Heart; Books On Tape; Why Not; K2?; I Should Love You More; Just For Me; Froghollow; Just For Me (4et).
Personnel: Craig Hartley: piano; Carlo De Rosa: bass; Henry Cole: drums; Fabio Morgera: trumpet (4, 9); Dida Pelled: vocals (6).
Record Label: Self Produced