|1 I Waited
For You (Fuller/Gillespie)
2 Conception (Shearing)
3 I Can't Get Started (Duke)
4 Cherokee (Noble)
5 Monk's Mood (Monk)
6 Tenor Madness (Rollins)
7 Peace (Silver)
Total time: 65:11
|Frank Hewitt (piano), Ari Roland (bass), Jimmy Lovelace (drums); recorded 10/5/96 in closed session at Smalls, NYC|
neglected master, a lyrical visionary of bebop piano..."
"Frank Hewitt, who died three years
ago at the age of 66, may have been the greatest unrecognized jazz pianist
of our time."
“…he was the exception: a genuinely
high-level, genuinely unrecognized jazz pianist…a bebopper and a
ballad player who was exceptionally talented”
“…goes right to the summit
and then an eagle’s eye view”
“…no less than breathtaking
in its intelligence and beauty…”
“…Hewitt and the drummer, Jimmy
Lovelace, have both since passed…[so] all we have left of them is
a few handfuls of recordings, such as this one. But what gems they are
– living legacies to two superb musicians…the brilliance is
there in every single note…”
“…once in a great while evidence
emerges that proves just how much brilliance escaped the microphones,
and We Loved You is compelling evidence…”
“…Hewitt’s playing brings
back all the enchantment of that honeymoon period before I became such
a jaded old curmudgeon…”
“…there is truly magic in his
touch. It isn’t every day you come across someone you’ve never
heard of who is this powerful…”
“Those who discover Hewitt for the
first time…will be shocked and delighted and baffled. The shock
and delight will come, not only from Hewitt’s incandescent creativity,
but because his music defines an original style…Once heard, Hewitt’s
style sounds inevitable, a logical and necessary extension of the work
of his three great predecessors. Hewitt uses their jagged, often turbulent
musical languages in the service of dramatic narrative. In his trills
and ornaments and sweeping flourishes, a hard-won, unsentimental romanticism
“…both complex and mesmerizing…a
flood of ideas…”
“…really extended spells of
inspiration and ideas of extraordinary freshness…”
On this fourth volume of the recordings of pianist Frank Hewitt, we move to the first recording we made together--ten years ago exactly--on the memorable afternoon of October 5th, 1996. Sixteen tunes were recorded at Smalls in an extended closed session. The only retake was the sound check tune for technical reasons. Frank said that there were no outtakes. We’ll be covering this date in two parts.
The session was exactly like a live date, except the club was closed. We had the great working trio with Ari Roland on bass and Jimmy Lovelace on drums. Frank moved spontaneously from tune to tune playing his trademark introductory verses. He never needed to tell that band what tune he was going to play, because everybody just knew how to converge into a groove at the right moment somehow. Leading off here is Frank’s stunning rendition of “I Waited For You,” one of his signature ballads. A very slight squeal from the brakes of the M8 cross-town bus stopping upstairs punctuates the beginning of the first solo chorus. This performance is sheer musical poetry with a searing beauty. I always come back to this track again and again. It had to be first. On this date, Frank actually did call one tune, and I’ve included it as a short preamble to “Cherokee.” Hewitt asks Lovelace to “start up Cherokee…seriously up” (meaning “up-tempo”). After a few moments, Frank added “nobody can play fast anymore,” and what followed was a life lesson on what it means to play fast with artistic brilliance. Musicians and scholars will find a piece worthy of detailed study in Frank’s version of “Conception.” It has some very interesting development that is relatively clearly outlined, but it also has some twists—enough to make you dizzy. And like most of Frank’s work, it rarely yields its secrets on the first listening, or the hundredth.
Here on the tenth anniversary of this date, it seems fit to include a few reminiscences of Frank Hewitt:
I had the pleasure of riding home with Frank after the Smalls Saturday late night at 5:00 am. We would rarely share a cab; most often we would be stuck waiting for the uptown #1 train that ran every 25 minutes at that time. There was an odd mix of riders: drunken revelers, service industry people on their way to work, and me and Frank. While he was more than thirty years my senior, we shared a brotherly inter-generational friendship that is one of the side benefits of the jazz business. We had both recently become permanently sober, and together we kept a lucid vigil on the rowdiness of the late night train station by sharing one story after another. Frank always saved his trademark jokes for an audience of at least three, so I was treated to his wild anecdotal repertoire, accounts of growing up in Harlem, his stint in the service, his encounters with Bud Powell. I remember Frank recounting hearing Bird and Diz at Carnegie Hall: "Yeah, that concert was okay, but then I went to hear the band at Birdland later that night, and that was the best music ever!" Once he visited Bud Powell's house in the morning, and walked in on him practicing Embraceable You - stark naked. Frank figured he needed some time to pull himself together, so he went downtown for a while, basically killing time until the afternoon. After six hours had passed, again he entered the Powell residence, and to his surprise, there was Bud, still naked, still playing Embraceable You.
His anecdotes boiled down to the same message; life is full of unexpected and bizarre surprises - don't forget to enjoy every moment while you can. I didn't take our many dozens of late night rides for granted, but I never guessed how few were left.
-- Chris Byars (saxophonist with the Frank Hewitt Quintet)
I remember when I was very young (10 or so), when my uncle Frankie
was at home playing the piano. I also remember my mother (who sang opera)
and he were singing at home together with my grandmother. When I was around
15 or so, Frankie would always be practicing and practicing, and humming
along with the notes. My grandmother would also hit the notes on the piano,
which made me very interested in learning to play. It got to the point
that I asked her if she would teach me and because Frankie was more interested
in jazz, she told me I couldn’t take piano lessons. So one day I
decided to teach myself. I went to Schirmer’s on Fifth Ave. in New
York and bought the (John) Thompson book--teach yourself how to play the
piano. Later on in the years, our grandmother decided that she wanted
an organ and went out to buy one and you couldn’t keep her off of
-- Rene Hewitt (Frank Hewitt’s nephew)
As a child growing up I can fondly remember uncle Frankie sitting at the piano playing his music never letting any thing or person distract his thoughts. He would sit for hours on if my grandmother would allow him. His love for music was beyond anything we could comprehend. He lived for music. As a child you don't understand the vision until you become an adult.
-- Joan Nurse (Frank Hewitt’s niece)
I enjoyed the time that I got to spend with Frank at Smalls. I used to join him watching movies in the back room. We’d have the most unhurried conversations with sometimes a full minute between exchanges. When he had something to say, he’d say it. Otherwise, he was content. He was usually meditative, and he said that he always had musical lines running through his mind. He was always pushing his musical ideas further. When he’d see me he’d call out “say, Brother Luke!” Sometimes he’d come at me with “Get It?” And my brain would cough for a second and then go oh-yeah and I’d say “Got It!” And he’d slip in “Good.” Then again and faster until we were going GetIt?GotIt!Good. GetIt?GotIt!Good. GetIt?GotIt!Good. He used to tease me about my “laissez-hair” attitude, and well, was I growing a beard or was I not? [Answer: That’s a metaphysical question.] For his part, he was always impeccably groomed and dressed like a country gentleman.
Smalls itself had no heat, except for a couple of pipes passing through to the upstairs apartments. For practical purposes, the club was heated only by patrons. But by the winter of 2000, all the tenants, save for us, had been relocated, and the upper floors were torn apart for renovations. You could look straight up at the sky from the basement in places, and the frigid air pooled into the basement--along with the water. The musicians took to retuning their instruments and performing in their winter jackets. Oddly enough, the cooler at Smalls, where Frank was living at the time, was usually the warmest place in the house. It had long since stopped being a cooler, but retained its excellent insulating properties. I have low tolerance for cold, and Frank would let me take respite in the cooler with him to warm myself up, and sometimes we’d read the newspaper together and talk about the news stories until I was warm enough to head back out.
-- Luke Kaven
Technical note: A few sonic deficits should be attributed to me alone and not the artists. This was one of my first recordings.
The producer would like to thank Mitch Borden, Tom Currier, Marcy Granata, Jeff Brown, Debbie Millman, and Yutaka Matsumoto for their gracious assistance in making these releases possible.
This record is dedicated to the late Marilyn Litvin.