No "huff and puff" warning here, just pure " blow your house down" playing by the entire ensemble. Mace Hibbard explodes into the treasured "Hello world, deal with me" space with his release "When Last We Met". So what, right? Just what the world needs, another young saxophone player with smoking chops and a new CD. Not so fast buckaroo.
Pay attention to the non-assuming, intensely thoughtful aura to Mr. Hibbard’s playing and composing. Each progressive listening begs another. Subsequent trips around the disc player or mp3 device yields deeper level of soul, spirit and complexity. A relaxed courtesy exists between the players. Throughout this project, the engaged listener will find that during each solo transition, no one is in a hurry to get started.
So, this CD all starts with "Captain Caveman" sneaking through the front door without the slightest hint of a knock. Mace Hibbard and his musical friends, secure the room like a finely prepared S.W.A.T. Team. Once in, shop is set up with a fearlessly swinging groove that supports the instrument-commanding solo development by Mr. Hibbard, his phenomenal pianist, Louis Heriveaux and rock-solid bassist Marc Miller. After hearing several projects with Justin Varnes behind the drum kit, this writer believes Mr. Varnes has his finest jazz contribution to date showcasing his talents as a supportive and driving musician.
Let’s highlight a few other selections starting with the title track, "When Last We Met". Soprano saxophone and guitar unison lines are a sorely under utilized instrumental combination. The melodic lines produce a romantically, burning voice crying out to be understood, often yearning for the unexplainable explanation. Again, Mr. Hibbard delivers impassioned playing along with Guitarist, Bryan Leitch. "Reverend Boots ‘n’ Ball" starts with Marc Miller’s Funky Acoustic Bass Groove. Yes, Funky Acoustic Bass Groove. We have been served a mixed tribute to a little preaching from the Reverend , a little country sax from Boots Randolph and some cool bop from Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. This Sassy composition is simply fun in a "vampy" sort of way. Thanks for more of the Sax/Guitar unison playing on the melody. Sweet!
"The Tempest" offers an eerie harmonic introduction joined quickly by a "creaky staircase" melody that conjures up memories of the old movie scene where all is not good in the middle of the night when the main character is suddenly awaken by the wind-induced loose shutter pounding against the side of the old farmhouse slightly ahead of the imminent crackle and light show of a thunder storm. The consistent droning repetition of the bass, piano, drums intro is the foundation for tension building experience. What was he thinking? An exceptionally visual composition.
"Lullabye for Alex" will take you to a special place. Art Pepper-like, bright but mellow alto saxophone with lyrical weavings puts a soothing cap to the long week or to any evening. Note to self: Track 1 for the personal "relaxation" mix. Louis Heriveaux follows on with a piano interlude of magnificent tenderness and feeling. A Jazz waltz can be the most difficult form of swing to master. The group handles the waltz as the title suggests, "Better than Most" with the masterful float of a butterfly.
You should now have enough briefing to run (don’t walk) to add Mace Hibbard’s When Last We Met to your collection. The problem with finding a hidden treasure is that it won’t stay a hidden treasure for long. As a footnote, the musicians on this CD are based in Atlanta, Georgia which is a town often considered to have no real jazz scene. Mace Hibbard is one of many dedicated jazz musicians, composers and educations that are changing that perception, one listener at a time.