Noah Haidu’s Slipstream Floats Away
Jazz pianist Noah Haidu has an intriguing new album just out on Posi-tone. Haidu has an individual style – he wanders and hints at melody, with deft use of chromatics, rather than hitting it head-on. That role is left to the horns here, and he’s got a couple of really good ones, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet and Jon Irabagon on alto sax, along with Chris Haney on bass and John Davis on drums (with Willie Jones III behind the kit on three tracks). Haidu aims for an update on a classic 50s hook-based style, with judicious shifts in time and tempo, plenty of room for some choice solo spots and an inevitable return to the head or the hook at the end of the song.
Jones gives the cheery opener, Soulstep, a steady clave beat, Pelt and Irabagon both cutting loose with good-natured, lyrical solos, Haidu right behind them. The stern chords that open Where Are We Right Now are a false alarm: it morphs into a bright ensemble piece, Haidu adding a bit of a rattling, funky edge, Irabagon spinning through the clouds with an effortless grace: it’s hard to imagine that the purist pro at work here has an alter ego whose antics have made recent albums by Bryan Murray andJon Lundbom so hilarious. The title track maintains the upbeat vibe, a brisk blend of old (30s, vaudevillian) and newer (60s, loungey). Break Tune builds off a staggered, Monk-ish piano hook, Irabagon playing good cop to Pelt’s repeat offender as the trumpet mauls the end of a series of swirling Irabagon phrases.
The judiciously brooding piano ballad Float, a trio piece with bass and drums, is a blues in disguise, followed by Take Your Time, wistful and simple with a purist pop feel. Another trio piece, Just One of Those Things gives Haidu a launching pad for some particularly tasty, bluesy horn voicings as he works his way up the scale. They close with a genial, 50s style swing theme, The Trouble Makers, which exemplifies everything that’s good and also frustrating about the album, including but not limited to the indomitable rhythm section and Pelt’s genial soloing. Trouble is that by now, the tropes that Haidu has fallen back throughout the album have past their expiration date as far as maintaining suspense, or for that matter maintaining interest. Does that staccato chromatic run up the scale mean the end of the solo? Of course it does, weren’t you listening when that happened ten minutes ago? Or the time before that? This is the kind of album that works best as an ipod shuffle: most every track here is a good choice for spicing up a mix or adding a hit of energy between slow ballads. And it’s reason to keep an a eye on Haidu to see what he puts out next.