Review: The Chuck Anderson Trio’s Night Hawk

By: Mike Oppenheim

chuck-anderson-homeNight Hawk [Dreambox Media], released in late-December 2013, is the second offering from the modern incarnation of the Chuck Anderson Trio. Bassist Eric Schreiber and drummer, Ed Rick, join guitarist Chuck Anderson in an electrifying exploration of six jazz standards and six newly composed originals.

Those familiar with Anderson’s previous albums already know him to be a unique and memorable composer, but the standards on Night Hawk showcase his playing on some of the genre’s best-loved tunes. Anderson’s melodious and virtuosic solos and Bill Evans-inspired sense of harmony offer a remarkable sound distinct from any other jazz guitarist.

The format and content of the album is based on the trio’s live performances, blending standards and originals in styles from blues to bossas and ballads to hard-bop. The live feel is augmented by the fact that Night Hawk was recorded as a live performance (sans audience) at Philadelphia’s Jamey’s House of Music.

The trio’s characteristic energy and sensitivity to communicative music making are apparent throughout. The album opens with the original “Matchsticks,” a grooving double-stop laden theme brimming with attitude. The guitar and bass solos are more than displays of virtuosity. They are tasteful and musical navigations of the harmonic contexts.

The blues-inflected rendition of Arthur Herzog Jr. and Billie Holiday’s classic “God Bless the Child” is a poignant and affecting ballad. Anderson’s performance is marked by remarkable restraint and a divine sense of phrasing, transforming each phrase into a full proclamation.

Anderson’s “Trade Winds” features a Mediterranean rhythmic feel to compliment a wide-open sense of space and shifting tonal alliances. Luis Bonfa’s “Manha De Carnaval” offers an up tempo bossa to diversify the album, but the real highlight in this regard is the original “Jamey’s House of Samba.” Behind Anderson’s effortlessly organic improvised melodies, Rick’s percussion work and Schreiber’s dynamic bass playing bring the tune to life in a way not frequently captured on recordings.

The album ends with the Miles Davis classic “Milestones,” often used by the trio to conclude their concerts. Anderson’s solos and comping are as inspired and impressive as expected, but Schreiber’s frenetic bass lines and Rick’s drum solo steal the limelight on this occasion.

Night Hawk is a prime example of what makes the Chuck Anderson Trio special. The originality of Anderson’s compositions and his superior guitar work set the standard. Schreiber and Rick excel at what they do, providing the integral backbone of the trio. The selection of standards and new compositions are the ideal canvas for Anderson, Schreiber and Rick to work their improvisational artistry.

Tracks: Matchsticks; All Blues (Miles Davis); Manha De Carnaval (Luis Bonfa); God Bless the Child (Arthur Herzog, Jr. and Billie Holiday); Eiffel Tower; Trade Winds; Night Hawk; Full House (Wes Montgomery); Jamey’s House of Samba; Moanin’ (Bobby Timmons); Wind Mist; Milestones (Miles Davis).

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One Comment

  1. Dan W (4 years ago)

    Excellent review of a truley artistic album. The previous album “Freefall” from the trio is also amazing. For anyone who either appreciates tastefully performed jazz or for those who enjoy masterful guitar musicianship, these albums are must-haves.