Life is full of coincidences, but the longer I'm around, the more I believe that there really aren't any coincidences. A case in point: at the same time I was asked to write the liner notes for this CD, another project came along that involved doing a survey of pianist-composer Horace Silver's recorded output. So on the same day I listened to the Here & Now quintet for the first time, I was rehearing four decades' worth of Horace Silver music.
Hearing this new offering by five rising young musicians along with one of jazz's foremost masters of the trumpet-and-saxophone quintet was a revelation - one that under other circumstances I might have missed. Not that the H&N Quintet is trying to sound like Horace Silver's bands, but there are some important qualities that they and Silver have in common. Like Silver, the H&N is focused on the sound of the ensemble; each piece is carefully crafted with interludes, colors, and textures that expand the possibilities of this seemingly limited instrumentation. And also like Silver, H&N knows the importance of melody. As H&N trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt puts it: "I think it's safe to say that we value melody and lyricism in our compositions over technical impressiveness. Ultimately, we want to create songs that will leave listeners with a melody stuck in their heads." At a time when too many jazz musicians write tunes that (to quote musician-producer Bob Belden) sound like second-trumpet parts, this is refreshing.
One reason that H&N's music sounds uncommonly organic is that its members have grown up together. All of them come from Seattle, Washington and are products of that city's fertile jazz-education scene. After high school graduation, all five dispersed to study jazz at some of America's finest music schools: Tatum Greenblatt at The New School and Juilliard in New York City, saxophonist-flutist Ben Roseth at New England Conservatory and Tufts University in the Boston area, pianist Drew Pierson at Columbia University and Juilliard, bassist David Dawda at New York University, and drummer Sean Hutchinson at the University of Southern California and New England Conservatory.
While the five were busy furthering their individual educations, they were drawn to continue the collective relationship that they had begun in high school. As Tatum Greenblatt elaborates: "We would routinely find ourselves meeting up back in Seattle over the school vacations at pick-up sessions and gigs that we booked. Over the years we came together to form this quintet, which took the name of an earlier trio that Ben, David, and Sean had formed. Since about 2005, we have been performing sold-out shows in Seattle during winter break and summer vacation at The Triple Door Theater, as well as shows at the New England Conservatory in Boston and the Cornelia Street Cafe in New York City. We finally decided to record an album to document this project that has become so consistent and important to us."
Nowadays, there are numerous young jazz players who play as well as these five, but there aren't many who have the selflessness to sublimate their youthful energies for the good of the ensemble. That quality makes this CD remarkable, and insures that you'll hear more about these gifted musicians in the years to come.
Bill Kirchner, July 2008
Saxophonist, composer-arranger, bandleader, jazz historian, record and
radio producer, and educator.