There is a long history of jazz tenor sax pairings: Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt; John Coltrane/Sonny Rollins; Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis/Johnny Griffin, Dave Liebman/Steve Grossman. With this in mind Chicago-born guitarist, Nicholas Hoffman assembled "Fangs" a collective of five very talented and swinging musicians from the Pacific Northwest, featuring two veteran tenor saxophone players - Hadley Caliman, and Gary Hammon-with a traditional organ trio of Hoffman, Delvon Dumas on Hammond B-3 and Jud Sherwood on drums. Fangs' sound is straight ahead, yet fresh, and reflects the respect, love and understanding that the band has for the history of jazz.
Legendary Hadley Caliman, the "dean" of Northwest tenors, made his mark in jazz with a style and sound that comes thru Lester and moves on to Dexter and Trane and in the end is uniquely his own. His recordings begin with a 1949 session in LA with Roy Porter's reboppers and include dates with Freddie Hubbard, Jon Hendricks, Eddie Henderson, Julian Priester, Joe Henderson, Jessica Williams, Carlos Santana and his four albums as a leader, recorded for Mainstream and Catalyst in the 70's.
Gary Hammon may be unfamiliar to many listeners - this recording marks the Seattle native's return to the studio after a 20 year absence. As Nicholas notes, "Gary's been under the radar of the jazz world, but he's enjoyed a 20 year association with Big John Patton and played with all kinds of folks, from Albert Collins and Albert King to Jaki Byard and George Russell, from Elvin Jones and Don Patterson to Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. I think this CD will mark Gary's reemergence. Gary has a SOUND!"
Nicholas Hoffman, a veteran guitar player, bandleader and teacher, makes his home in Bellingham, WA. Nicholas' affection for the B3 is well documented on his first two CDs featuring Joey DeFrancesco, Barney McClure and Dave Mathews. They have earned him organ trio gigs as far away as Japan. This fourth independent recording effort represents a further evolution of his blues-based, fluid sound.
Organist Delvon Dumas is a new name to the jazz public...but not for long. He is a multi-instrumentalist who has worked in a variety of settings as a keyboardist, drummer, trumpeter and upright bassist in the Seattle area. Delvon is a high-energy player, who brings a wonderfully percussive yet traditional approach to the B-3.
As "in house" drummer and director of The Jazz Project, Jud Sherwood has many years of experience in many different settings. Playing with Teddy Edwards, Bill Perkins, Herb Ellis, Nancy King, John Stowell among others has paid off handsomely as evidenced here. As well as putting this recording "in the pocket" rhythmically, Jud brought the forces of The Jazz Project to bear on seeing this recording project thru to the end.
The album launches with Ugetsu, a straight ahead cooker in D, by pianist Cedar Walton, originally recorded by Art Blakey in 1963. The Japanese title translates to "Fantasy." Are You For Me, a tender ballad written by Gary, showcases his very warm and rich sound, captured wonderfully by engineer David Lange. The band then shifts gears and takes a nice walk through Herbie Hancock's bluesy Driftin', originally heard on his debut album "Takin' Off." Slightly in the Tradition, a burner written by Gary, is based upon Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A Train." Next up is Fangs, an ominous 16 bar blues, written by Nicholas with Hadley and Gary in mind. David "Fathead" Newman's Head is a minor blues with a groove originally recorded by Don Patterson on his "Mellow Soul" LP. It features the OGD trio without horns. On a Misty Night, an old Tadd Dameron chestnut, reveals the band's relaxed side. Based on "September in the Rain", this tune was originally recorded on Dameron's 1956 collaboration with John Coltrane. Hadley is featured on his original, Linda, written for his wife. A beautiful tune in Db played with just organ and drums accompaniment. Gary remarked during the studio playback "This song will be playing at the Gates of Heaven." The band closes with Harold Mabern's relaxing groove, Rakin' n' Scrapin'. Here the band pays homage to Big John Patton's 1969 Blue Note version. Gary in particular, gives a nod to the "quarter tone" sound of Patton's sax man Marvin Cabell.
One night while surfing the web for Hadley Caliman (I owned one of those Mainstream sides) I came across www.nicholashoffman.com. After a flurry of e-mail, we determined that we grew up in the same Chicago neighborhood and that my wife and he were 7th and 8th grade classmates (although Nick's attendance left something to be desired). From there our friendship evolved through visits to Bellingham, steady e-mail traffic, and eventually the invitation to be a part of this effort. So after a weekend of hangin' in the studio and at a live gig, I can offer my perspective. First, the band was smokin_ and these guys really play as a unit. So many things impressed me: Delvon's non-stop energy (jamming constantly in between the tunes), Hadley's steady hand, Gary's joy at returning to the studio, Jud's rock solid "always there" drumming and Nicholas' constant quest for perfection. Oh and don't forget the beautiful sound that engineer David Lange captured. It was a special effort. Thanks to everyone that made it possible and thanks to the band for letting me be there with them. I can't wait for the next CD!
- Robert Guttman, Chicago, IL, December, 2004.