Thursday, December 19, 2019

Antonio Hart in Pittsburgh, and Records

I sold some vinyl last Sunday at the Pittsburgh Record Fest #23, which happened in the afternoon at Spirit. It went really well, with a lot of vendors and a lot of buyers. Plus, I went in with four boxes of albums and a box of singles, and left with just two boxes of albums and a thinner box of singles. I naturally came home with a few things, but they were all pretty inexpensive. In fact, I obtained three of these albums in a trade for two A Certain Ratio albums, which is a pretty good deal, methinks.

The thing about a Record Fest though is that it takes time to prepare for it, if you're going to do it right. That means pricing things, which often means doing some research to figure what's a good price to fan impulse buys, without making things too inexpensive. (I didn't take anything high ticket stuff because most people aren't going there expecting to drop megabucks on a single record.) Because of all that, the time that I spent getting ready was time that I didn't spend right here, talking about new records and shows.

It was a foregone conclusion that alto saxophonist Antonio Hart would offer a good time to everyone who came out to his show on December 7. But his sextet took it even further at the New Hazlett Theater. They pumped up their straight-swinging sound with some deep melodic exploration and energy in two exciting sets.

Hart was flanked by trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and trombonist Robin Eubanks. Hendrix came to town with Billy Harper back in 2015 and released his own Jersey Cat album in the months following that show. If he hasn't made a name for his own self yet, his performance with Hart made him a name to remember. Eubanks has been around for quite some time, releasing albums on his own as well as supporting people like Dave Holland. Hart referred to him as a supportive older brother, who met the saxophonist when the latter was a Berklee student.

The rhythm section was a little  younger than the frontline but it consisted of players that give a listener hope for the future of this music. In particular, pianist Miki Yamanaka really fit that description, due to the way she comped aggressively behind the soloists, building up the music without intruding on anyone. She attended Hart's jazz program at Queens College and he joked that she wasn't his best student since late nights hanging out in jazz clubs made her miss a lot of classes. Clearly he knew, though, that her field work paid off, and so did the audience. Bassist  Alex Ayala and drummer Vince Ector also did a lot to create musical nets that pushed the horns forward.

Beginning the evening with the brief invocation "Peace, Harmony and Love," the group dove into a set that included "Black Children," a Hart composition that dates back to one of his earliest albums, Don't You Know I Care. The saxophonist's tone was a blend of crispness with a thick, beefy quality that comes from his early Cannonball Adderley influence. Hendrix also sounded bright and crisp.
But everyone in the sextet has worked to develop their own personality in their playing. Ayala's solos were extremely melodic. During "Down and Up," he spun a web with Ector during Hart's solo, and switched to walking when it was Eubanks' turn. 

The second set offered the most rewarding moments of the night. "Nine Weeks" was inspired a tour of that length that Hart endured a few years ago in Europe. This slinky number, in which Hart played soprano, eventually pushed towards freedom as everyone soloed together, expressing the tedium of long tour, but doing it in a way that was a blast to listeners. Eubanks' "Sum of All Parts" gave him a chance to show off his trademark blend of blowing and growling vocally during his solo. Yamanaka's "Early Morning" began pensively, with harmonies that created the sound of phantom horns early in the theme. It was a tender piece though it had enough aggression to consider it a ballad.

It was another fine evening presented by the Kente Arts Alliance.

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