A three decades-plus veteran of Berklee's jazz studies program, drummer Joe Hunt has toured and recorded with George Russell, Stan Getz and Bill Evans, and has also performed with Joe Henderson, Tal Farlow and Kenny Burrell. His first eponymous acoustic jazz trio CD showcases three original compositions by pianist Steve Rudolph along with five standards, Miles' "Solar" and a Bill Evans medley.
As a follow-up to that studio session, this same superlative trio - which quite literally defines the concept of "group empathy" - released their live documentation of a concert from August 2005, with one Rudolph original and beautiful, swinging performances of standards by Johnny Mandel, Duke Ellington, Duke Pearson and four more.
Personnel: Joe Hunt, drums; bassist Steve Meashey and tasteful, stylish pianist Steve Rudolph, who contributes three originals to the studio session and one to the live recording.
"Alice in Wonderland" / "Just in Time" / "Close Enough for Love" / "Come Sunday" / "The Lamp Is Low" / "How Could You Do a Thing Like That to Me" / "You Know I Care" / "Bill's Blues"
"I'm Glad There Is You" / "Mr. Bim" / "Solar" / "Everything I Love" / "I Hear a Rhapsody" / "Over the Rainbow" / "Twelve-Tone Tune / Gloria's Step" / "The Earth, the Moon & the Stars" / "Three for B.E." / "The Sweetest Sound I Ever Heard"
What the critics say:
"Keith Jarrett. Bill Evans. Tommy Flanagan. Hank Jones. Steve Rudolph. David Hazeltine. Marian McPartland. Kenny Barron. Fred Hersch. Steve Kuhn. Ted Rosenthal. Barry Harris. Ahmad Jamal...
...Steve Rudolph is the only person on the list to spend twenty years playing piano in a hotel lounge out of the mainstream, instead of gaining recognition at one time or another in the New York jazz scene. The quality of Rudolph’s piano work belongs among that of the others on the list, though. If his version of 'Alice in Wonderland' were submitted for a blindfold test, there’s absolutely no doubt that some of the names of the other pianists would be ventured.
But the importance of family can be a powerful influence on career decisions, and Rudolph’s regular gig at the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Hilton provides him with the peace of mind that allows him comfort, challenge and local recognition. The same is true of Joe Hunt, who performed with Stan Getz and Bill Evans, but who settled in Harrisburg to be near his family. With Steve Meashey on bass, all of a sudden, a major jazz piano trio formed, but one heard only by the fortunate few in the Harrisburg vicinity.
An audience at the Carlisle, Pennsylvania First Presbyterian Church heard it too, and that concert comprises the trio’s 'Live!' The Steve Rudolph Trio certainly was in fine form that day in 2005, for Rudolph performed with grace, swing, originality and the ease of a veteran jazz pianist. Not only has he developed a personal style, but also obviously Rudolph loves the opportunity to perform in front of an audience, for his diverse song list no doubt was designed to entertain. Plus, he quotes. 'You Know I Care,' briefly recalls 'Stella by Starlight,' even as Rudolph fashions it into his own interpretation, at first without accompaniment as he employs his own counterpoint, moving chords, shimmering tremolos and glistening crescendos. Rudolph’s solo on 'Just in Time' glides easily into a phrase from 'It Don’t Mean a Thing' after the energetic drum-and-bass intro. On 'Close Enough for Love,' the give-and-take between Rudolph and Meashey takes on a Modern Jazz Quartet feel made so familiar by John Lewis and Percy Heath. 'How Could You Do a Thing Like That to Me' features Rudolph’s light touch as the song’s rests allow 'Cute'-like drum fills. 'Bill’s Blues' at a fast tempo excites the audience with its energizing pace, build-up of musical tension, quick development of ideas, and Rudolph’s rapid-fire articulation. 'Come Sunday' moves into a pronounced sway as the trio engages in the cohesiveness that develops (quoting 'Willow Weep for Me'), and Rudolph’s lyrical and soulful approach is entirely appropriate to the venue of the concert.
Unfortunately, hunt moved on to Boston, and this documents their last performance. Fortunately, Rudolph continues to play at the Hilton. Lucky Harrisburgers."
"Anyone who thinks Harrisburg is not a hip town has not heard pianist Steve Rudolph. A founder of the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz, Rudolph has been music director at the Harrisburg Hilton for the last 20 years.
He joins on this live recording with bassist Steve Meashey, an in-demand veteran of the Philly scene, and drummer Joe Hunt, who worked with Stan Getz, George Russell and Bill Evans back in the 1960s.
The playing is tasteful and straight-ahead. Rudolph finds a sly way into several standards, including a jagged exploration of 'Just in Time' and a more mellow take of 'The Lamp Is Low.' 'Come Sunday' rocks with gospel feeling, while 'Bill's Blues,' a Rudolph original, attacks the genre with abandon."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Yes, that Joe Hunt from Stan Getz' group back in the '60s. Since then his appearances on disc have been
infrequent and mostly out-of-the-way; it¹s a real pleasure to see him back in the studio. His new trio is unapologetically modeled after the classic Bill Evans trio, and the disc¹s program includes 'Solar', 'Gloria¹s Step', and 'Twelve Tone Tune' from the Evans book, as well as an homage 'Three for B. E.'. In the rather cramped liner notes is a description of pianist, Steve Rudolph as 'an artist who projects strength and soul within a lyrical framework,' whose 'technical ability allows the music to speak to listeners without drawing attention to himself' - if so, he¹s failed, because this is playing of a calibre to turn heads. On uptempo tracks he is graceful without glibness, his lines so light and fleet they barely touch the ground; when he plays a ballad such as 'Over the Rainbow', he is expressive but also bracingly clear-sighted and unsentimental. This is Evans with the pep and imagination still present, rather than the kind of innocuous redaction of his style one so often encounters among his followers. Rudolph, Hunt and bassist Meashey make this kind of jazz sound fresh and sometimes (on fast pieces like 'Solar' and 'The Sweetest Sounds I Ever Heard') genuinely exhilarating. It¹s a first rate disc, and deserves widespread attention among enthusiasts of the traditional piano trio."
"Drummer Joe Hunt was a collaborator of Stan Getz's and a professor at Boston's jazz think tank, the Berklee College of Music, for 30 years before he landed in Central Pennsylvania...
Their trio recording is a well-motored affair. Hunt, who has backed singers from Astrid Gilberto to Ann Hampton Calloway, pulses with delicacy, his sound brushlike even when he's gotten out the sticks.
Rudolph can sound gilded and plush, but he also provides the occasionally jagged melody interpretation, and Meashey often rises to the fore. Standards dominate, but the pianist offers three tunes, including a dark and beguiling cut, 'The Earth, the Moon & the Stars,' which begins like a children's tune before its poignant denouement. The trio is a pleasant surprise."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
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