Harold Danko

Hinesight

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Among the greats of jazz piano, Earl Fatha Hines is unjustly overlooked by many jazz artists and fans, even though his bands provided early exposure for budding bop players like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, but Harold Danko sees a lot of value in his work as both a composer and performer. This outstanding trio date with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jeff Hirshfield features explorations of 12 Hines compositions, few of which have been played much except by musicians thought of as swing stylists. Danko never attempts to mimic Hines' unique approach to the piano, instead choosing to emphasize the beauty of his writing. The relaxed setting of "Deep Forest" slowly builds up steam as the trio delves into this time-tested favorite. Likewise, typical recordings of "You Can Depend on Me" have made it a showpiece for rousing stride pianists, Danko chooses to emphasize its lyricism by playing it as a ballad. The soft Latin rhythm beneath their version of "Rosetta" also fits beautifully while displaying Hines' theme song in a new light. The less well-known works are every bit as enjoyable. Formanek is at the forefront during the introduction to the jaunty "Stowaway" (as Danko strums and hand mutes the piano strings), while "Ann, Wonderful One" is truly a hidden gem uncovered by Danko. This is a perfect example of what a tribute CD should be, a thoughtfully constructed mix of familiar and infrequently performed numbers associated with the musician being honored, as interpreted by players who can deliver the goods without either resorting to carbon-copying arrangements or revamping the melodies into something unrecognizable.

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