Artist: Dan Pratt
Album: Hymn for the Happy Man
Label: Same Island Music
Release Date: 06/03/2016
New York based saxophonist and composer Dan Pratt releases his fourth album, entitled Hymn for the Happy Man. Pratt’s last two releases were based in an organ group setting, but the new album heads in a different direction. Pratt was looking for something new to do and for this album he decided to go with the well explored piano-bass-drums-sax quartet instrumentation line-up. Pratt has never recorded a quartet record, and felt he needed to explore that foundational instrumentation that is an essential strand to the jazz DNA.
The quartet is comprised of bassist Christian McBride, drummer Gregory Hutchinson and pianist Mike Eckroth. Pratt wrote seven originals and arranged one well-chosen standard. The saxophonist-composer’s connection to McBride can found in that he is a member of McBride’s big band. With the core rhythmic unit of McBride and Hutchinson, the warmth and pulse on the album is beautiful. Eckroth is known for his sensitive harmonies behind a soloist and his relentless ear in following the soloist’s lines in any direction they may lead.
The quartet starts with a Pratt original, “Gross Blues.” The feel is Monkish in nature with McBride and Eckroth playing a unison figure with Hutchinson’s drum patterns flowing freely over the bar lines. Pratt’s melody is angular and rhythmically jagged and is doubled by Eckroth’s right hand, both adding to the energy. Pratt solos first, his tone is full and muscular as he methodically develops melodic and rhythmic motifs into full musical statements. Eckroth’s moving chords feed the saxophonist with dissonant voicings, pushing him harmonically into zealous, high register wailing. The pianist follows suit with his melodic statement, developing motifs and building in intensity and register. McBride delivers a bluesy chops-laden solo with wonderful commentary from Hutchinson’s cymbals.
The up-tempo swing version of “Speak Low,” is a unique interpretation of the Kurt Weill-penned jazz standard, incorporating clever rhythmic devices to break things up in interesting ways. The quartet clearly conveys happiness from within and celebrates a forward-thinking kind of mentality and spirit in the music.
There are sparse moments, as with the delicate and patient “River,” which finds Pratt’s playing full of reflective melodic ebb and flow. The singing quality through the rich harmonic terrain of “New Day,” a tune written about the emotions he had after he met the woman who is now his wife, is a great example of that. Pratt’s interest in playing with space and form brings a sense of subtle, but focused joy and gives elasticity to the music.
Hymn for the Happy Man is a prodigious recording and has all the key elements of an entertaining musical experience. With Pratt’s adventurous and impassioned playing, McBride’s ability to supply a wonderful bottom end supported by Hutchinson’s adaptable time, all framed by the harmonic richness of Eckroth, it makes for a rock solid listen throughout.
– Sylvannia Garutch