Al Hood: Just A Little Taste
Just a Little Taste:
Al Hood Plays the Music of Dave Hanson
Reviewed by: Cicily Janus
Recasting his strength as a musician in a palpable yet brilliant light, Al Hood has exceeded expectations in his latest release, Just a Little Taste. Stemming off the genius of Dave Hanson, who in my opinion, is an unsung hero of jazz, Hood masterfully interprets this album in its entirety. I find it particularly rare in this age of sound bites and ring tones to discover an album so complete that each song manifests itself as a compliment to the next. The combination of golden lyricism in the traditional tunes versus the genuine voice on the original tracks throughout perfectly flatters Hood’s spirit and essence as a human being and as a musician.
Hood’s interpretation of the opening track, I Remember Clifford, is sweet with a raw, emotional edge. Treating it as his own, he doesn’t show off. Instead,he climbs through each verse, singing it to his listener while setting the mood for the album. Twisting and bending his phrasing to the words of the tune, it’s clear he knows the solemn meaning behind the title. Right out of the gate, he proves that the moments stolen during his solos are nothing but intelligent playing at its best.
Providing ear candy on the next tune, Pure Imagination, Hood lays on the syrup and knocks the biased opinions of show/movie tunes away from negative critics in the past. Whether your a kid in real time or a kid at heart, both solos from Hanson and Hood are laid out as pleasing rides through an imaginary world leaving the listener up in the clouds.
As I’ve listened over and over to this album, I found myself more deeply entrenched in the core of its meaning. It’s not under- or overstated, it’s a balanced expression of love for music. Students of music, whether in this genre or not, should take heed to Al’s musicianship. One of the things we can learn most is how to time a moment of silence. When taking note of the tunes It’s Only Everything, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, and Nostalgic Blues, Hood allows the quietude of moments passing to play a part as if it was a note in of itself. It’s just as important. A magical aspect of any tune often comes in where a slight of the hand is pulled on the listener so they can no longer predict where the musician is going, but realizes suddenly that they know exactly where he’s been. Hood is a magician of music. Unpredictable and steadfast.
Hanson’s treatment of Here’s to Life is interpreted and vocalized by Steve Hood, Al’s brother. In a pensive show of talent, he brings a quiet strength to the table. This is by no means inappropriate for this song. His voice is spot-on and commended by the richness of the padded strings beneath him. Hood manages again to soar above even when muted.
Featuring Rich Chiaraluce on Alto, who elaborates his fiery thoughts while technically and soulfully accompanying Susan McCullough on French Horn, the original and title track, Just a Little Taste, zips right on. What could be considered a hard bop standard in its own rite, Hanson shows his skills as a composer while leaving the listener wanting for more. This track creates a balance for the album’s abundant and creamy center. Hood’s upper range and extensive abilities to solo are forthright and impressive. Despite his ability to show these aspects of his playing off to this degree, Hood never loses the luscious tone that’s characteristic throughout the rest of the album.
It’s obvious there are many influences in Hanson’s writing, but the cinematic ones that dominate tracks such as Pastoral Blue and Habanera for Kyrie add a subtle texture to each tune. Hood plays off their dense stories while splicing the air with his own experienced story telling ability. Pelts of tones and undertones of life speak through the bell of his horn.
Prevailing throughout as the theme, in my opinion, is the texture of sound. A relaxed yet formidable presence, which is something we could all use more of in our lives, is played with deep sincerity from the first tune to the last. String albums such as this aren’t done enough. The resonating opinion throughout the modern jazz world is that everything has to be burning holes in your hard drive as soloists play every note they know. This is one that frequently tires my ears and mind.
Hood’s album is one I’ve relished and will continue to relish for the rest of my days and I do not say that lightly. It takes enormous skill to be able to play not only in tune, but with a sense of melodic and harmonic balance both on flugelhorn and trumpet. Each track is so inexplicably beautiful its difficult to take this level of honesty and place it into words. The co-operation between Hood and Hanson is one that was well thought out with the listener and performer in mind and it shows. I know and hope this isn’t the culmination of Hood’s career, but it is a gorgeous start and will surely bring him the hard-earned and well-deserved recognition many seek but few find.