All About Jazz

Dan McClenaghan

Sharp Radway:  Hymns and Things (Introspection and Reflection)

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A good dose of personal humility and devotion to a higher power can de-clutter the life and chosen form of artistic expression. In the case of pianist Sharp Radway, who comes to his gospel jazz from early musical endeavors in the church, a pure spirit of artistic expression is revealed on his debut, Hymns and Things (Introspection and Reflection).

Radway mixes solo piano, piano trio and two-horn frontline quintet offerings—very adeptly sequenced—into an engaging and cohesive set of that speaks eloquently to the CD's subtitle. The solemn solo opener, "Sweet Hour of Prayer," gives way to the ebullient jubilation of "Savior, Like a Sheppard Lead Us," featuring saxophonists James Spaulding and Greg Tardy, both sounding like they have the spirit in them—and the joy and verve to bring a congregation dancing out of the pews.

"He Looked Beyond My Faults," an inspiration for the Irish staple "Danny Boy," puts Radway's patient, supple touch and dynamic control into play, while "Leaning on Everlasting Arms," a trio offering, bounces and swings, with Radway sounding crisp in front of a shuffling rhythm.

Spaulding (on flute) and Tardy (on tenor saxophone) rejoin the core trio on "Your Decrees," taking the music into very soulful territory. Tardy's raw sound contrasts beautifully with Spaulding's silky trills. "His Eye on the Sparrow" finds Radway going it solo once again, opening up with a pensive and reverent feeling, slipping in flourishes, then building momentum and moving into a brief stride groove that eases back from the rent party to the church.

The pie chart of the art of the pianists can be sliced from anatomical origins in the head, the heart, the gut and, on Hymns and Things especially, the soul. With a humble outlook and coming from a spiritual home base, Radway has crafted a particularly fine personal statement with this debut. 

AllAboutJazz.com

Dan Bilawski

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Sharp Radway:  Hymns and Things (Introspection and Reflection)

All forms of jazz are a means of artistic personalization, but gospel jazz may be the ultimate form of individualized musical expression for those who believe. It serves as an aural representation of the individual communing with a higher power, and giving thanks. A broad yet set repertoire often binds gospel jazz projects and artists together, but no two people approach this style of music in the same manner. Pianist Hank Jones favored quiet musings on the divine while others, like pianist Cyrus Chestnut, often prefer a more flamboyant and chops-driven method of performance. This form of music is as personal as faith and belief itself, and pianist Sharp Radway has an absolute understanding of this fact. 

Hymns And Things serves as Radway's leader debut, but it's been a long time coming. Actually, he imagined such a project before he even had the technical wherewithal to put it together. Radway's musically formative years included time playing drums in church and, when he made the move to piano, it took a while to get things off the ground. He had a strong desire to start a "gospel jazz band," but he wasn't ready at that point. Radway's three-chord vocabulary wouldn't cut it, and he knew it, but he also had a clear understanding that he lacked understanding, and the drive to buckle down and work; it clearly paid off. 

Now, Radway has the goods and his vision is finally a reality. The ten songs featured on Hymns and Things give the pianist a chance to express himself in solo, trio and quintet settings. The album's subtitle, (Introspection And Reflection), makes it abundantly clear that Radway prefers a mellower form of gospel jazz, but it's a bit misleading; this isn't a sleepy sojourn into the heavens. His tropically infused trio take on "Jesus, Keep me Near The Cross," driven by McClenty Hunter Jr.'s peppy drumming, has energy to spare, and "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" is bright as can be. A quintet take on "Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us," featuring guest saxophonists Greg Tardy and James Spaulding, is a sunny swing tune bursting with positive energy, while "My Faith Looks Up To Thee" goes from a placid place to pianist Ahmad Jamal's territory, with Hunter's Vernell Fournier-esque drumming further cementing that connection. 

The solo piano pieces prove to be the place where "introspection and reflection" come into focus. Radway beautifully interprets a well-known "Danny Boy" precursor ("He Looked Beyond My Faults") and elsewhere looks within himself to find the right musical message ("Sweet Hour Of Prayer"). Tender sentiments are balanced out by resolute thoughts and contemplative moments occasionally encounter resounding ideals as Radway fully invests himself in this music. 

Hymns And Things has all the elements of a great jazz record: strong artistic vision, great playing and group chemistry, all coming into play on this pleasing debut.

The Wall Street Journal

Martin Johnson

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Performing With The Legendary Alto Saxophonist, James Spaulding at Sista's Place, Brooklyn, New York

...Just down the street at Sista's Place, on Nostrand Avenue, reedman James Spaulding—who played on Hubbard's "Night of the Cookers" recording—was closing his first set with his quartet in front of a full house of fans ranging from tweens to seniors. Before taking an intermission, Mr. Spaulding turned over the stage to pianist Rudi Mwongozi and vocalist Taylor Maxwell, a 10-year-old student of his. After a brief diatribe about the state of public education in the city, the trio performed a song about teaching children. The young Maxwell's singing grew increasingly assured as the song stretched on. The set finished with pianist Sharp Radway playing Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit." Following a long ruminative passage, he settled into an infectious groove that had the crowd clapping along.

Lucid Culture

Delarue

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Review of Carl Bartlett, Jr.'s Nationally Acclaimed Recording "Hopeful"

What’s most immediately striking about Carl Bartlett Jr.‘s album Hopeful is the New York alto saxophonist’s fearsome chops. Quivering but stiletto-precise doublestops, bone-rattling trills and spirals from moody lows to stratospheric highs punctuate the solo piece that Bartlett opens the album with – ostentatious as it may be to show off like that, right off the bat, Bartlett pulls it off. The rest of the album features a brilliant band comprising pianist Sharp Radway, bassist Eric Lemon and drummer Emanuel Harrold, all players on the New York scene who deserves to be far better known. Bartlett’s tunesmithing falls into a solidly traditionalist postbop style, with expansive but tasteful solos and all kinds of electrifying interplay. This is one of those albums that manages to capture the band showing off the vigor and chemistry of a live set rather than a studio rush job. Bartlett and his quartet are at the Kitano on January 2 at 8 and 10 PM; cover is $15  plus a $15 minimum.

The first of the quartet numbers here, Fidgety Season, is a forcefully enigmatic jazz waltz, Bartlett and Radway trading up/down trajectories, the pianist’s artfully subtle permutations over Harrold’s suspenseful rumble giving way to a purposeful attack from the bandleader. The ballad Julie B benefits from a murkily resonant solo piano intro, Bartlett’s slowly unwinding lines handing off to a similarly soulful solo by Lemon; then Radway illuminates Bartlett’s balminess underneath.

Quantum Leaps (and Bounds), with guest Ron Jackson on guitar, takes a Steey Dan-ish theme for a brisk walk with a series of animated tradeoffs with the drums on the way out. Release is a bossa tune, Bartlett holding back resolutely from the resolution implied by the title until midway through, Radway latching onto the song’s inner bluesiness as it winds out with some clever rhythmic jousting. Seven Up works similar blues allusions over a syncopated swing – it’s Adderley Brothers gutbucket spun through funhouse mirror hardbop sophistication.

It Could Happen to You has Charles Bartlett guesting on trumpet and exchanging a series of energetically exploratory and eventually explosive, microtonally-charged solos with the sax over Harrold’s cool, cymbal-driven implied clave. They end the album with a lovingly lickety-split, strikingly straightforward take of the I Love Lucy theme, resisting the urge to indulge in buffoonery.

AllAboutJazz.com

Dan Bilawski

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Review of Carl Bartlett, Jr.'s Nationally Acclaimed Recording "Hopeful"

Bartlett is clearly the star of his own show, but a few other players deserve a mention. Pianist Sharp Radway wins the award for most supportive presence, as he continually lays down a comfortable foundation for Bartlett's explorations. 

Quotes / What They Are Saying About Sharp

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