Saxophonist Nick Hempton has got something good going-on in his sophomore release, “The Business” (Posi-Tone Records). If you just put the CD on and go about your business, this sounds like fairly solid, straight-ahead, “post-bop.” When you listen closely, you hear a real band at work. Whether it’s singing, swinging, lines of bassist Marco Panascia or the inventive drumming of Dan Aran, this music is, for the most part, filled with joyous moments. Then, there are the voicings and flights of fancy from pianist Art Hirahara and all one needs is some good tunes to “blow” on. Mr. Hempton, a native of Australia, has been leading the band for the better part of 5 years and one can easily hear that they are comfortable with each other. Guitarist Yotam Silberstein joins the group on a number of tracks and he, too, fits right in.
Whether it’s the martial strut of the drums on “Press One for Bupkis” (with a melody line that echoes that of “To Life” (from “Fiddler on the Roof”) or the low-down blues of Don Redman’s “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” (where Hempton’s tenor has the weight of the best work of Ben Webster), this is so much more than “background” music. The other “cover” tune is an inspired choice. The quartet dances its way through Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “From Bechet, Byas, and Fats“- in the second half of the song, the band doubles the pace for a romp of a solo from Hirahara followed by a ever-shifting exchange of the drummer with the rest of the group. Hempton displays a lighter tone on the handsome ballad “Encounter at E“; listen to the piano accompaniment, spare yet effective or Aran’s “conversational” drums and the way Panascia propels the piece (nice, melodic, solo as well.) Everyone gets “funky” for “Not Here For a Haircut“, Hirahara’s Fender Rhodes dancing atop the “fatback” drums, the chunky rhythm guitar and the bouncing bass. Hempton, in contrast, takes a measured solo, filled with melodic flourishes, giving way to Silberstein’s bluesy turn. There’s a bit extra bounce in everyone’s step on the closing tune, a “hot” number called “Carry On Up The Blues.” This is definitely one of the “happier” blues tunes you’ll ever hear.
The CD is in Nick Hempton’s name and, while he wrote the majority of the tunes, the success of this music is in the spirited work of all involved. If somebody going to give you “The Business“, don’t say no!