One has to admit that it is a bit presumptive to name a jazz combo the “Classic Trio.” There have been many “Classic” piano trios. The ones that quickly spring to mind are Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamel, Ray Brown, Gene Harris, and the list continues. Pianist David Hazeltine has slapped this leaden moniker on himself and his rhythm section of bassist Peter Washington and drummer Louis Hayes. The moniker may not be too far from completely accurate.
The Classic Trio Meets Eric Alexander marks the third outing of the Classic Trio and the first to include a plus-one musician, in this case tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. Alexander almost sounds like the session leader, a tribute to both him and Hazeltine. Honor Alexander for a fiery brand of assertive tenor playing and Hazeltine for allowing him space. The results are seamless and exact, like a finely-drafted drawing.
The arrangements and performances on this collection are crisply precise. There are no “blowing session” excesses here, only finely crafted music played confidently on the head of a pin. The disc opener is the jaunty Hazeltine original “On the Boulevard.” Alexander contributes the swingingly complex “Hayes' Phase.” These originals are mixed with Jobim Bossa (”O Grande Amor”), Stevie wonder contemporary (”Knocks Me Off My Feet”) and the Be Bop (”East of the Sun” and “Our Delight”).
There is no way to fault craftsmanship this fine. In the pregnant field of straight-ahead mainstream, The Classic Trio Meets Eric Alexander stands out as a crystalline example of how jazz is supposed to sound in the main.