JAY HOGGARD SWING ‘EM GATES- A TRIBUTE TO LIONEL HAMPTON
Take The A Train; Flying Home; Swing Em Gates; How High The Moon; Memories Of You; Uptown Vibes; Air Mail Special; In A Mellow Tone; Stardust; Shiny Stockings.
PERSONNEL—Jay Hoggard, vibraphone James Weidman, piano
Dr. Billy Taylor, piano (4 ,5,10) Leon Lee Dorsey, bass
Winard Harper, drums Willie Martinez, conga(1,3,10)
Jay Hoggard’s music, which feeds off of jazz tradition and mixes in ethnic influences, world percussion, and classical traits, has always stood out from many other vibraphone players. I can recall listening to his Solo Vibraphone album and marveling at his wondrous rhythmic elasticity, energy-driven use of ornamentation and general spirit that traveled through his music. While Hoggard’s work has taken him to many exotic locales, geographically and musically, his roots in the straight-ahead, jazz vibraphone tradition are strong.
Lionel Hampton, credited as the “Vibes President” in Hoggard’s new CD, was a trailblazer for all vibraphone players who followed him and he’s paid a fitting tribute on Hoggard’s latest album. Hoggard often subbed for Hampton, in Hampton’s own band, during the 1990’s. The level of respect and admiration clearly comes through in this recording. Swing ‘Em Gates focuses, largely, on material that is associated with Hampton. Hoggard puts his own unique stamp on the music.
Take The A Train starts the proceedings and things seem fairly tame at the outset. Hoggard’s true colors come through after his initial run through the melody. The high point of the track comes when Hoggard, pianist James Weidman and Winard Harper, the talented drummer on board for the album, trade solos amongst each other. Flying Home,” became a signature song for Hampton, and Hoggard and his musical cohorts romp through a rousing rendition. Weidman’s piano work perfectly accentuates Hoggard’s soloing, and the descending run at the start of his solo is a terrific smile-inducing moment.
The seed of origin for the album title, Swing Em Gates, is an interesting story and Hampton anecdote. Hoggard asked Hampton about what songs to learn for one of his subbing dates. Hamp told the vibraphonist to “just swing ‘em gates.” Hoggard’s one original composition on the album is the title track. This tune fits in snugly with the standards on the album. The stylistic vein of the song draws from the same source as the other album material. How High The Moon is the first of three album tracks that feature the great Dr. Billy Taylor on piano. This track is also a standout because of Leon Lee Dorsey’s bass solo. Dorsey’s solid presence and terrific walking lines help to really anchor the ensemble throughout the entire album.
Hoggard begins Memories of You with gently floating sounds that are further buoyed by Dr.Taylor’s piano work. This duo performance, while strikingly different from the other performances on the album, contains the most delightfully nuanced and stirring music on the album.
James Weidman’s writing contribution to this release is a comfortably paced swing tune entitled Uptown Vibes. It returns to the musical territory that the band established on the first four tracks. Hoggard covers Air Mail Special, here, which he also performed, in an exciting and vastly different way on Solo Vibraphone. The current track has a bit more rhythmic thrust than the previous one.
In a Mellow Tone features some galloping phrases during solos from Weidman and Hoggard. Stardust begins with Dorsey’s firm, yet gentle, arco statement and the reins are then taken over by Hoggard’s vibraphone playing.The band takes a pleasant stroll through this song and this leisurely paced performance is delightful in its relaxed atmosphere. Winard Harper, while maintaining a low profile throughout the majority of the album, is to be commended for providing solid timing, crisp stick and brushwork, and a general sense of musicality that helps the music to swing. A nice run through Shiny Stockings with some energetic interaction and fills from Harper’s drums and the conga playing of Willie Martinez, ends the album with the spirit that is carried throughout.
Hoggard’s most straight-ahead recording to date is an appealing trip through nostalgic favorites that is sure to find a place into the collection of swing-era jazz fans and vibraphone lovers.
By Dan Bilawsky
Jazz Improv Magazine’s New York Jazz Guide & Directory • January 2007