If you long for the days of extremely confident and uninhibited jazz guitar playing in the style of early George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, and Grant Green, then Richie Hart is your man. His latest release Blues in the Alley is a much welcome respite from the calculated and processed playing that seems to find its way onto the popular music charts of the day. Which is fine, if you enjoy that style of playing. But if you like the kind of jazz guitar that makes you want to grab your axe and play, where the player is not afraid to let go and take some chances, then “Blues in the Alley” is a definite must have.
A funky hip-hopped version of “Well You Needn’t” kicks off the CD as Hart and his trio, Rick Petrone on bass and Joe Corsello on drums and percussion, rejuvenate the oft-played Monk tune with some fresh and modern guitar pickin’ or thumbin’ as for the most part Hart plays with his thumb except on one tune. This leads into the original up-tempo Hart composition “Blues in the Alley” which pays homage to the organ trios (with Pete Levin lending his talents on keyboards) that Hart came up from in his early years. His playing on it is just outstanding with fleet-fingered modern fourth intervals alongside blues drenched lines and strong comping. If this tune doesn’t have you jumping out of your chair at the end yelling “yeah!” then check your pulse and listen to the tune again.
This kind of playing keeps on rollin’ as Hart and company explore the improvisational potential of both standards and originals. Tunes like “Autumn Leaves”, “Georgia on my Mind”, “Sandu”, “Black Pearls” with Gerry Niewood snaking his way through the changes on tenor sax, “The Fox”, and a “West Side Story Medley” receive thoughtful and articulate performances throughout by all concerned as do Hart’s original compositions: “Blues in the Alley”, “Fresh Air”, and “On a High Note”.
Just check out the opening chord/melody intro to “Georgia on my Mind” and you’ll get a glimpse of how musical this man can get. Kenny Burrell would be proud indeed. As would Wes Montgomery upon hearing tunes like “The Fox” and “On a High Note” that share a sonic similarity to Wes’s trademark thumb and octave playing and phrasing. Actually, “On a High Note”, a gorgeous tune, has become a favorite tune of mine since first listen. In fact I find that I keep coming back to this CD time and time again and I think you will to. Thank you Richie Hart.
So if you are looking for serious jazz guitar played “in the moment”, then look no further than Richie Hart. You won’t be disappointed.