New York City abounds with working musicians trying to make their mark in jazz circles. Whether as a fan or music professional, discovering these musicians is a delight, especially when the musician has "arrived " and developed a true voice in the jazz tradition.
Jeff Hackworth is one such musician. He’s achieved a deep understanding of the tenor sax and he plays with assurance and a keen mastery of the drenching emotions of his horn. Houston Person introduced me to Jeff and has been a big influence and mentor in Hackworth’s career. I endorse this enthusiasm, and I am honored to add these words.
Hackworth came up in Buffalo N.Y. playing in blues and R&B bands, and a thriving jazz organ trio scene. Jeff also honed his talents in many years on the road, with groups as diverse as Buddy Morrow’s Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and Matt “Guitar” Murphy. Hackworth moved to New York City about eight years ago, where he’s sharpened his talents and professional development. Jeff says "after many years as a working musician and sideman, I want to step out on my own and be a part of the tradition of musicians like Houston."
Hackworth’s name may be familiar from last year’s album release "How Little We Know", which was on the jazzweek.com charts for seven weeks, an astonishing feat for a little known artist signifying that Jeff’s talents struck a responsive chord. Jeff feels that he’s "made a lot of growth since the last record by living in New York and being inspired by the community of musicians."
One thing that sets Hackworth apart is his attention to melodies that connect to innate human feeling and emotion. The Gene Ammons, Ike Quebec, Stanley Turrentine branch of jazz that so informs his playing also maintained this key element. "Am I just trying to re-create something that already happened? " Jeff muses. "Maybe I am, but it’s what inspires me." And there aren’t too many doing this today, so as Houston says wryly "someone’s got to do it."
In producing this album, Houston helped select the repertoire, backing musicians and ran the session. Jeff remarks “Houston really assembled a great cast of players. Lafayette Harris shared some great ideas for the harmonies and when you add Alvin Atkinson and John Webber, it was a beautiful swinging rhythm section to play with. John Basili added his tasteful guitar to some tunes and of course Houston brought his warmth, humor and experience to the date.”
Jeff and Houston share an affinity in looking for old songs, forgotten standards, and new arrangements to recast these chestnuts, pouring old wine into new, refreshing bottles. The best example is the opener, "Can’t Help Falling In Love", the Elvis vehicle from "Blue Hawaii." Houston suggested the song and the bossa feel with Jeff adding the re-harmonization. It remains a recognizable tune, but has a different flavor that lends itself to the jazz sax treatment.
"Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" also has respectful treatment by the inclusion of the verse, flowing with tender emotion, before the band picks up the tempo and grooves this standard in the pocket.
"What Will I Tell My Heart" is a blues ballad introduced by Pha Terrell with Andy Kirk. Jeff was inspired by Lou Donaldson’s saxophone interpretation, and lays down a soulful story in his own right. There should be room for Ellington on any recording, and the group swings nicely with a touch of the blues on "Just A Sittin and a Rockin".
"Just One More Chance" is a beautiful ballad that has famous recordings by many of Jeff’s favorites – Coleman Hawkins, Lucky Thompson, Ike Quebec, and more. Hackworth offers a fine rendition as well. On the other hand, "Stranger in Paradise" is taken at a burning tempo that Borodin never envisioned. "Oh, You Crazy Moon" is another less familiar Burke-Van Heusen standard that Chet Baker’s vocal inspired for the presentation here.
The program for this jazz album wouldn’t be complete without a jumping R&B classic, so we ride things out with the "One Mint Julep" that was the cause of it all. "Then I’ll Be Tired of You" is a charming piece that dates backs to the 1930's, with the album closing on another great mellifluous ballad, "Stairway to the Stars".
The measure of a recording project is did the band achieve what it set out to do, and was it worth getting there? The answer is a resounding yes, and I hope that you’re as enthused as I am in meeting this new artist on the tenor sax.
WKCR-FM New York City
Review from ejazznews.com
By John Gilbert
Jeff Hackworth (ts), Lafayette Harris, Jr. (piano), John Webber (bass),
Alvin Atkinson (d), John Basili (guitar, 1,4,7,8,9)
Jeff Hackworth plays with a lot of intensity and sticks with what makes
jazz a great art form. His sound is not affected and ideas abound in his
After a piano intro Hackworth comes strutting in on "Just A Sittin' And
A Rockin" and his message is clear and concise, just get it from the
soul and go from there. John Basili adds his comments on the guitar with
grace and execution.
"Just One More Chance" is my hue and cry and Jeff Hackworth expresses
the feeling of this tune with aplomb and finesse.
"Stranger In Paradise" is done at racehorse tempo and Hackworth's fiery
solo shows that he is equally at home on the speedway or on swing
"One Mint Julip" is a tune that has been around for time immemorial and
this ensemble romps through it like they own it. The tenor solo is
perhaps the hallmark of this album, Hackworth is truly in synch with the
backbeat shuffle and his soliloquy is as hot as a two dollar pistol.
For good jazz expressed in a swinging mode, this album is a sure bet to
please the discriminating ear.
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Review from the Buffalo News critic Jeff Simon:
Buried treasure here and a bit out of the blue too. Hackworth is a tenor saxophonist of soul, facility and behemoth sound who grew up in Buffalo and steeped himself in the working class tenor traditions of the Pine Grille the whole Gene Ammons, Stanley Turrentine, Ike Quebec and Houston Person line that also, in a different way, so impressed and formed Grover Washington Jr. Hackworth's tone is harder than, say, Quebec's and his attack more nimble but he's got that ballad-and-blues soaked club jazz feel that no school has ever taught or ever will. When Hackworth moved to New York eight years ago, he eventually hooked up with Person himself who has now produced two savory meat and potatoes soul jazz discs with Hackworth. Person picked the players and they're solid as oak. The repertoire is mostly as traditional as Ellington's "Just Sitting and a Rockin'." Put it this way the newest tune on the disc is Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love." Ammong the players chosen by Person are the redoubtable Lafayette Harris Jr. This is the music where retro and timeless meet.