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Hymns & Things (Introspection & Reflection)

Hymns & Things (Introspection & Reflection)

  • By Sharp Radway
  • Release 16/10/2012
  • Music Genre Jazz
  • Media Format CD
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Price: €19.50

Product Notes

'Other than being a most proficient master of his instrument, Sharp Radway has knowledge far exceeding notes and chords.' ~ Benny Golson (Internationally Renowned Tenor Saxophonist, Composer, and Arranger) At a time when modernity is all-too-often defined by complexity and challenge, there's something particularly refreshing about the arrival of an artist who values substance over style, and humility over hubris. Sharp Radway may be debuting as a leader with Hymns and Things, and will more than likely be a name new to most, but he's been establishing his jazz cred as a pianist/composer/arranger since moving to New York City eight years ago from his hometown of Hartford, CT. The author of Musicianship 101 (What They Don't Teach You In School) (Outskirts Press, 2010) caught the ear of some significant names almost immediately upon arriving in The Big Apple, a remarkable achievement for a pianist who has come relatively late to jazz. Saxophonist/clarinetist Greg Tardy met Radway during his first week in New York and saxophonist/flautist James Spaulding soon after, and their guest appearance on two of Hymns and Things' tracks suggests they were as quickly attracted to the pianist's ongoing dedication to honing his craft as they were his gentle manner, giving nature and affable demeanor. 'Greg Tardy was the first guy I met,' Radway recalls. 'I met him the first night after I moved to New York. I'd just finished unpacking, and decided I wanted to go hear some jazz; I ran out to this little place and ran into Greg. He had a gig that night, and we hit it off.' Radway's first encounter with Spaulding seemed innocuous enough, the kind of thing that happens regularly amongst musicians in the New York club scene, though the pianist couldn't have predicted how it would ultimately play out. 'I was doing a gig at a club in Brooklyn called Sista's Place, and James knew the drummer that I was working with,' says Radway. 'He'd been working with him previously, and he came in and heard me play. I asked if I could take a photo with him, we made some small talk, and he took my number. A year later I get a phone call and it was like, 'Hey, Sharp! You want to go over to Portugal?' I said, 'Yeah, man, who's this?' and he said, 'James Spaulding, man!' James Spaulding? I thought it was a joke, but it turns out it was no joke, and we've been playing together ever since.' For a self-taught musician who has, in addition to Tardy and Spaulding, worked with jazz legends like Benny Golson and Curtis Fuller, considers Onaje Allan Gumbs to be 'like a big brother,' and is currently the musical director for The Celebration of Lionel Hampton Big Band, it's been a rapid rise, but the idea for Hymns and Things dates back to before Radway was even ready to play jazz. 'I grew up playing in the church,' Radway explains, 'I played drums for about four or five years, I played alto sax, and, of course, I played piano. But when I started playing piano, I only played three chords - C major, D minor and E minor - on every song [chuckles]. But my roots can be found in the church, and the songs on this record are part of the original standard repertoire, if you will, of what I was dealing with as a musician. I always wanted to do a gospel jazz record, before I even knew what jazz was, or what it would entail. 'I used to hang out and practice at this music school in Hartford,' Radway continues, 'and I ran into a bass player, a good friend of mine, Steve Porter. He was in class, so I walked straight into the classroom and said, 'Hey, man, I want to start a gospel jazz band,' and he was down for it, he was ready; so he helped me call a rehearsal. We sat down and were ready to get to business, and it took all of about thirty seconds for them to realize I didn't know the slightest thing about jazz. That was about ten years ago.' Radway tends to downplay his evolution from 'three-chord wonder' to the mature player heard on Hymns and Things. 'It's been pretty much an organic experience. I always just hung around musicians who were better than me, and I read a couple of reference books. Man, I've been thinking: I need to write down every name of everyone I ever tried to study with,' he says, with a chuckle, 'because it has never worked out for me - a long list of well-known musicians, some lesser-knowns as well. I tried to take some lessons in Hartford, but they were short-lived. I didn't really have much money; I was struggling to pay for a $20 lesson at the time, so it didn't work out.' Based on Hymns and Things' ten songs, arranged by Radway for solo, trio and quintet, clearly a lot has worked out since then, though he dismisses it with characteristic humility. 'These are all songs that have been a steady source of inspiration and encouragement to me over the years, Radway admits, 'I credit God for everything. The music's there; I just hear it and write it down. ' 'Gospel jazz' might suggest music that's upbeat and up-tempo, but the album's subtitle says it all: Introspection and Reflection. Songs like the balladic quintet track, 'Your Decrees' - Radway's lyrical head, arranged for flute and clarinet, opening up to a middle section where Spaulding engages in some empathic interaction with Tardy (back on tenor) - prove that less is, indeed, more for the pianist. Elsewhere, solo pieces like the closing 'My Tribute (To God Be the Glory)' unfold with an expressive touch and unmistakable sense of construction - ebbing and flowing, as Radway's firm command of dynamics and a particular penchant for the lower register of his instrument wax dramatic without ever feeling melodramatic. 'He Looked Beyond My Faults' - it's basic structure dating back to 1796, ultimately inspiring iconic songs like 'Oh, Danny Boy' and becoming, in the Black church, the basis for a number of other hymns and referred to as 'the other Amazing Grace ' - speaks with understated power, while 'His Eye Is On The Sparrow' is a five-minute jazz history lesson, from modernistic impressionism to traditional stride. Radway's history with his core band mates - bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummers McClenty Hunter and Emanuel Harrold (who split the album's six group tracks down the middle) - runs deep; so, too, does his love and respect. 'They're all consummate gentlemen,' Radway enthuses. 'They're all very intelligent, very selfless, very humble, very wise, very helpful. They're strong men, absolutely wonderful men who put the music first - it's never about me or them - and I connected with them on a personal and spiritual level almost immediately. 'I met Corcoran when he was getting his Master's Degree at Queens College,' Radway continues. 'We both knew a drummer in town who was trying to put together a band. We hit it off musically right away, and we've been playing together ever since.' Strong throughout, Corcoran's work on 'Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Me' is particularly impressive; swinging effortlessly with Radway and Harrold to provide Spaulding and Tardy plenty of grist, his own solo is a beautifully built - reverent to the song's fundamentals while, at the same time, positing his own lyrical voice. Of Harrold, Radway says, 'The first year I was in New York, we did a gig with an alto saxophonist named Jason Curry, but I couldn't really get into what Emanuel was doing. But this was because Emanuel was light years ahead of me; he still is, in fact, and I learn from him every time we play.' 'My Faith Looks Up to Thee' starts as a soft trio piece, with Holt and Hunter's pliant, graceful support. 'He's very tasteful,' says the pianist of Hunter, 'the perfect balance of discipline and non-restraint. He'll give you what you need, but he won't overplay.' The song gradually picks up steam, however, as Radway's solo - more Ahmad Jamal than McCoy Tyner, two of the pianist's significant influences, along with Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk - focuses on the heart of the song, rather than superfluous virtuosity. It's Radway's economical approach, in fact, that defines Hymns and Things as elegant contemplation more than reckless abandon. 'I feel that I can express myself better when a composition allows you to breathe and play over it,' Radway says. 'I don't think it's necessary to make things unnecessarily complex. When I'm inspired to play a lot of notes, I'll play a lot of notes, but that's not what's happening at the moment; I play what the moment calls for. [Percussionist] Candido is someone I work with, and he says, 'Don't force the hands what the hands can already do.'' Hymns and Things is unapologetically of the tradition, but it's equally a modern-day record that's refreshing in it's unassuming simplicity and plainspoken honesty. 'I like to think of myself as being a very down-to-earth, open and sincere type of person, and I think that's reflected in the music,' says Radway. 'I feel that you can never force the day to be modern; the day is what it is. I'm not regurgitating anything from the past, but the influences are there. Make no mistake about it: I write stuff in odd meters, and I have some more complex compositions as well, but I recorded Hymns and Things, just playing how I felt on those given days. And because I'm current, then the music's gonna be current.' ~John Kelman (Managing Editor and prolific contributor to AllAboutJazz) 'I met Sharp back in 2008 when I heard him playing at a club in Brooklyn named 'Sista's Place'. After that initial meeting I called him to play with my band overseas about a year later. Sharp's piano artistry is noteworthy and he has the right touch. He always delivers with his solos and is an excellent accompanist. Having him as part of the band enhances the music. Whether he is the band-leader, or performing as sideman, he is the perfect protagonist, or, when needed, the superb foil. I enjoyed doing this recording with him. Sharp Radway's musicianship exemplifies his name. Yes - he's Sharp!' ~ James Spaulding (Internationally Renowned Saxophonist and Flautist)


Artist: Sharp Radway
Title: Hymns & Things (Introspection & Reflection)
Genre: Jazz
Release Date: 16/10/2012
Label: CD Baby
Media Format: CD
UPC: 747014614129


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