Hal Galper

Ivory Forest Redux



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MUSIC REVIEW BY S. Victor Aaron, Something Else!


Around the early 90's when my John Scofield fascination led me back to his catalog prior to his Miles Davis association, I picked up his 1978 Rough House CD. While the guitarist's advanced bop vocabulary was already fully developed by this time and he also demonstrated emerging composing chops this early on, this was a very different record than the ones he has made from, say, Still Warm onward. His signature tone wasn't fully in place yet and he was a more balls-to-the-wall player back then. This is also one of the fairly infrequent times Sco is leading a band that included an acoustic pianist. These recordings don't present the John Scofield that put him in the elite status he enjoys today but taken on its own merits, Rough House remains a solid jazz record today.

However, this article isn't about Scofield specifically, it's about the guy who played piano on that old record, Hal Galper. Less than a year after the two recorded Rough House with Adam Nussbaum on drums and Stafford Jones on bass, Scofield, Galper and Nussbaum with bassist Wayne Dockery made a similar record Ivory Forest, this time under Galper's leadership.

While not quite a household name, Hal Galper has led a jazz career that can only be deemed a success. He's worked with luminaries such as Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Joe Williams and Anita O'Day. He had stints in the bands of Cannonball Adderley and Phil Woods. At this writing, he's on the faculty of both the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and William Paterson College. But my introduction to Galper came from his late 70's association with Scofield.

They gigged together, primarily in NYC and Europe, and both made records for the West German Enja label. Ivory Forest, in fact, was originally issued co-headlined by Galper and Scofield, which made sense because this was ostensibly supposed to be a Scofield record but he was unable to officially lead the date due to just signing with another record company.

Scofield even has a track all to himself: an unaccompanied interpretation of "Monk's Mood" that solves the riddle of Thelonious' gorgeously elusive melody as he directs his big time chops toward making the song even more beautiful.

But all the originals here are Galper's, and beginning with the title track, Galper reveals himself to be tradition-anchored but forward-looking. He throws gauntlets at Nussbaum that pushes the ever-shifting rhythm in and out of the jazz idiom, and Nussbaum handles it with equanimity. Meanwhile, Galper's soloing (and comping) is fresh and contemporary.

While that song is groove-based, "Continuity" is introspective, made even more so by the intimacy of this being a Galper/Scofield duet. Galper uses single-line notes with discretion, showing a bias for the orchestral possibilities afforded by the full chordal capabilities of the piano. For his part, Scofield had noticeably widened his range from the prior year's recordings.

"My Dog Spot" is a spritely change of pace, a Brazilian samba involving the whole quartet but Galper's chord changes contain vague echoes of "Giant Steps" and Scofield seems to be mining this festive melodic progression for all it's worth. "Rapunzel's Luncheonette," with its quicksilver and knotty post-bop lines, is the closest this album comes to Rough House but instead of Scofield doing a scorching five-minute run, it's Galper. Behind his and Sco's clinics, Nussbaum is putting one on of his own.

Galper takes on Álvaro Carrillo's standard "Yellow Days" with only Dockery in tow, sticking to a presentation that brings out the pleasing melody that found its way into the repertoire of Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and Count Basie, among others.

Sadly, Ivory Forest had been out of print stateside for a long time, perhaps twenty years or so. Origin Records had apparently licensed the rights to the masters from Enja and under Galper's supervision, the tapes were remastered for release in late 2022 as Ivory Forest Redux. Thumbs up on the remaster job, too, as it's easy to hear the separation between the players and gain a good appreciation of how well they were attuned to one another.

Hal Galper's Ivory Forest Redux easily justifies the decision to polish up these recordings and take them back out of obscurity. Artists well-known and should be better-known all shine on it.





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