Review: Hawthorn Nights [Original Jazz Classics, OJCCD-830-2, 2004]

Old friendships are combined to produce an enticing set. Most of the music was arranged or composed by Zoot Sims' old Kenton teammate, Bill Holman. As usual, Holman's writing is solid and enhances Zoot's vibrant tenor style. As for Zoot, he just zips through these tunes with an ease that demonstrates his improvisational skills. His playing is full of imagination. Enjoyable is the word that best defines the present offering. Straight ahead jazz is the main course, but with slight touches of that Kentonian sound which Holman helped define. There’s nothing ground breaking in this recording, but that doesn’t lessen the pleasure it brings.

The title track is Holman’s ‘Hawthorn Nights’. Fast paced and exciting, with the colors which recall the way it was done in the sixties. Sims’ growls his way across this with zeal and zest. Pure Zoot.

Follows is Ellington’s ‘Main Stem’. The band has room to show off it’s talents we hear trombone, trumpet and soprano sax solos.

More Than You Know’ shows off Zoot’s mellow side. A discreet band setting let’s Sims’ give a tender rendering of this classic standard. The deepest piece on the disc. 

'Only a Rose' is a medium swing piece that lets Zoot meander for our greatest delight.

An interesting but uncharacteristically fast paced ‘Girl from Ipanema’ brings a new approach to a usually tranquille classic. After a solo stint with Zoot, you can’t help but smile at the elaborate band workings of Holman.

It is followed by a soulful rendition of Ellington’s ‘I Got It Band and that Ain’t Good’. The orchestra is nicely culled in slow moving lines, leaving plenty of room for Sims’ wanderings which are all that is needed to convey the mournful texture of the tune.

The medium feel of Holman’s ‘Fillings’ starts off in a country style reminiscent of a Boots Randolph tune, but soon blooms into a full pledged swing. Several players get to show off their improvising talents as we run through solos on trombone and piano.

Dark Cloud is another Holman original. A surprising twist is hearing a vocal which I assume is Zoot, a little of his tenor sax feel comes through in the way he phrases the song.

All in all a fun record to listen to.

Hawthorn Nights - Original Jazz Classics, OJCCD-830-2, 2005

[sidemen: Bill Holman, composer/arranger, Bill Hood (sax), Richie Kamuca (sax), Jerome Richardson (flute, sax), Frank Rosolino (trombone), Oscar Brashear (trombone), Snooky Young (trumpet), Ross Tompkins (piano), Monty Budwig (bass), Nick Ceroli (drums)]


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