Craig Hartley ‘Books On Tape Vol. II Standard Edition’ (Private Press) 4/5

craig-hartley“Oh Great!” said I, as I was sent this album to review “…another album featuring music from the past by Ellington, Fats Waller, Bill Evans, Bach and Lennon & McCartney…”
Being English, I was of course being a tad sarcastic at the prospect of listening to another technically able but rather staid jazz recording.
I then clicked the play button to listen to Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ and in no uncertain terms was told to shut my stupid mouth by the members of this very creative trio of Hartley on piano, Carlo De Rosa on bass and Jeremy ‘Bean’ Clemons on drums. What they do with ‘Caravan’ is quite clever, enthralling and delightful. Piano and drums and bass set a serious, strident tonal introduction being moving up a gear with a latin overtone. It is so easy to let go with this song because of Ellington’s extraordinary writing, anyone can just have a party with this but this trio completely own and control the context.
Again, with Waller’s ‘Jitterbug Waltz’ they turn this near 80-year-old song into a modern whimsical listen with echoes of Guaraldi.
Bach’s ‘Prelude No 2 in C Minor’ begins in robust confident fashion with Hartley providing excellent left-hand control and right-handed improvisation decadence before going pure unadulterated bop on us. And just so we all know that we’re not just dealing with any old mortal here, the trio throw in a little ‘Solar’ by Miles Davis –a true delight!
Paul McCartney’s ‘Junk’ is a more subdued affair which doesn’t stray too far from the original arrangement but here it is given a much more classy jazz trio edge with a big delicious helping of double bass.
‘Mood Indigo’ is another well-played piece but given less of a modern arrangement like ‘Caravan’ but no less listenable.
The guys cleverly intertwine Bill Evans’ ‘Peace Piece’ with Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. I didn’t find this one as enthralling as some of the other songs on this album but I get the impression that this was designed to be one of the signature tracks on the album. I am probably doing the track a disservice as I’m much more a fan of the Evans song than I am of the Lennon one. I suggest you judge this one for yourselves.
Do listen, once again, for another bass solo that is good enough to eat!

The album ends with ‘Just Wait’ which is a solo piece and every bit as engaging as the trio tracks before it.

A very strong album and one deserving of a 4/5.

I will not prejudge again (I promise)!

Sammy Goulbourne