STEVE HECKMAN — Steve Heckman & Matt Clark : Some Other Time / Slow Cafe (review)

STEVE HECKMAN — Steve Heckman & Matt Clark : Some Other Time / Slow Cafe album cover Album · 2017 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
js
The hardest group format to work in when it comes to keeping a groove, and, as they say, ‘swinging your ass off’, has to be the duo configuration. Playing solo is easier because you have no one else to match to, you can wander as far off the beat as you want and no one is going to complain, except maybe your audience. Likewise, once you get up to three or more participants, more than likely you will have a drummer keeping time, or at least a bass instrument, but when it is just the two of you, both of you need to have killer time instincts and a swingin beat in your head or the resultant train wrecks will come soon and often at that. Having said all that, on their new CD, “Some Other Time/Slow Café”, saxophonist Steve Heckman and pianist Matt Clark easily show that they are ‘those guys‘, the ones with an impeccable drummer keeping time in their hearts and minds. This is a great CD, with an excellent choice of material made up of lesser known standards plus four originals, three by Heckman and one by Clark. It says a lot about your writing ability when your own originals can blend with proven standards and not stand out in a bad way, but such is the case, especially with Heckman, whose originals are often the highlight on this album.

My only prior experience with Steve’s playing was hearing his previous Coltrane tribute. Possibly it had to do with the pressure of paying tribute to Coltrane, but Steve sounds so much more relaxed and fluid on this new album, not that there was anything wrong with his earnest take on Coltrane classics, but “Some Other Time/Slow Café” shows more variety and personal approaches than what was heard on his previous effort. Some highlights on here include the lofty ballad “Some Other Time” on which Heckman’s breathy tenor tone recalls one of his favorite influences, Lee Konitz, I also thought I heard some Coleman Hawkins on this one too. Two Heckman originals stand out, “Sheila’s Sunday Song’ on which Steve shows that he has a nice full tone on the flute, and the soulful RnB/pop of “Slow Café”. Two tracks by Duke Pearson have the duo in a hard bop/soul jazz groove with Matt walking the bass on the low end of the piano, and then there’s Monk’s “Ugly Beauty”, on which Matt shows off those signature Monk style whole tone scale runs.

Don’t expect fireworks on here, instead, this is a very unpretentious and warm jam session from two guys who really click, give this album a chance and it will grow on you. There is another plus on here and that’s the piano sound. Often times modern acoustic jazz sounds too bright and artificial, I don’t know what they did right on here, but the piano has a natural presence with just the right amount of normal room ambience and reverb, absolutely no artificial sweeteners at all. The CD cover works well too, instead of the expected urban jazz scene, you get what looks like a somewhat surreal warm quiet café in a rural winter landscape, it fit’s the music perfectly.
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