Noah Haidu – Standards II (2024) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Noah Haidu – Standards II (2024)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:00:36 minutes | 1,20 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Sunnyside

Pianist Noah Haidu sees a certain irony in his current recorded output. “I love composing but improvisation has always been my greatest passion. When I started releasing music in 2011 I relied on my songwriting to make a unique artistic statement, but I’ve come full circle and realized that finding my own voice on a simple, unadorned standard is a rare and necessary endeavor.” Haidu embraced that endeavor on his 2023 release Standards, and on Standards II, due out April 12, 2024 on Sunnyside Records. The new album is a breathtaking masterpiece featuring Haidu with two of the music’s most esteemed players, Buster Williams on bass and Billy Hart on drums.

“With Standards II, I’ve committed to performing with my own Standards Trio as a regular part of my touring schedule,” Haidu says. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to build a voice in this canon, and for the amazing response from audiences on our recent tours. While I’m still composing my own music and continuing with various projects outside of the American Songbook repertoire, my Standards Trio is an important statement for me and an integral part of my identity as a musician.”

Haidu’s initial quintet recordings — Slipstream (Posi-Tone) and Infinite Distances (Cellar Live) — led to DownBeat magazine calling him an “innovative composer,” while writer Giovanni Russonello described him as “a performer and composer with focus and vision.” In Jazzwise magazine, Tony Hall called Haidu “unquestionably one of the most confident and impressive of all the new pianists.” Standards II realizes that early promise while honing in on the essential components of jazz pianism and the jazz trio. The album showcases Haidu’s touch, improvisations and interaction with Williams and Hart. These
performances illuminate classic with freshness, virtuosity and irresistible immediacy, commanding the listener’s full attention.

The album is also the latest in a five-decade collaboration between legendary bassist Buster Williams and brilliant drummer Billy Hart. Their rhythmic partnership started on a gig in Chicago with vocalist Betty Carter, and continued soon after in bands led by pianists Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner, both of whom have influenced Haidu as much as Keith Jarrett and Kenny Kirkland. Haidu reminisces about the moment he realized he wanted to record with Hart and Williams:

“We were playing at Jazz Forum. I’d played with Billy, I’d played with Buster, but we’d never played together as a group. I started a piece in three-four time, but the tempo was too fast. Buster responded by superimposing different time signatures over the 3-4, never quite going into one or the other. The effect of keeping things off balance challenged everyone to play the song differently. It was like … hold on tight, and keep up!

“Later Billy mentioned that he was basically lost for the whole tune, but to me it was a great moment and I loved where it took us. We also played standard repertoire at that show, and I was really happy to have a band that could play anywhere on the spectrum, from experimental modernism to authentic standards, all with total integrity. There’s not a lot of bands that can do that, and I don’t take it for granted.”

Standards II opens with a free-floating, exploratory interpretation of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Although this piece has been covered by many, including Keith Jarrett, the trio finds new territory, from Hart’s opening soundscapes and the unique interplay between Haidu and Williams to a passing of the melodic baton between Haidu, Williams and Hart. This arguably represents a new direction in Haidu’s approach which typically finds freedom within clearly defined song structures. Here he enjoys knocking down those structures and then rebuilding them with “found” materials such as gospel chords, classical cadences, and even ‘Tatum-esque’ runs. He plays with, and at times against the melody and his collaborators. Meanwhile Hart and Williams engage in the push/pull of this performance with as much vitality as their early 1970’s work with Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi ensemble. It was throughthis exploratory band that they helped create the language of free jazz.

Just how far this trio can go in various directions is demonstrated on the second track, George and Ira Gershwin’s 1926 composition “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Here the trio shows a completely different side of its ballad approach, carefully teasing the harmonic and melodic possibilities of the song to create a moving performance that features Haidu’s lyricism and use of space framed by Hart’s delicate brushwork and Williams’ nimble counterpoint. The band creates emotion and slow-motion energy throughout while staying within the framework of the standard.

Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring” follows with the band exploring the possibilities of the introduction to the point where it feels like a separate track, with opening piano chords enfolding bass and drum work leading into collective rubato statement; finally, a steady 3-4 tempo is introduced and Hart solos with heartfelt accompaniment from Williams and Haidu, both of whom follow with swinging solos and the final melody. Pedro Flores’ “Obsesión,” a standard in the Afro-Latin world, is seamlessly translated into the jazz trio idiom with Haidu’s block chords, runs and rhythmic ideas.

“Days of Wine and Roses” is exquisitely rendered with a consummate solo by Williams, while Haidu’s swinging touch and harmonic sensibilities shine through on “After You’ve Gone.” Hart’s unaccompanied solo amply demonstrates why he remains among the world’s most in-demand drummers. The set concludes with Ellington’s “I’ve Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good).” Here Haidu plays the melody eloquently before Williams’ improvisation and Hart’s brushwork take center stage.

Standards II is clearly not a piano date with hired gun sidemen. It showcases an evolving ensemble — seasoned by time on the road and in the studio — at its peak, nailing the essence of what a jazz trio should be and expanding its vocabulary in some of the music’s most revered standards.

1-01. Noah Haidu – Over The Rainbow (10:25)
1-02. Noah Haidu – Someone To Watch Over Me (07:56)
1-03. Noah Haidu – Up Jumped Spring (11:53)
1-04. Noah Haidu – Obsesión (08:42)
1-05. Noah Haidu – Days Of Wine And Roses (07:49)
1-06. Noah Haidu – After You’ve Gone (06:04)
1-07. Noah Haidu – I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) (07:45)

Noah Haidu – piano
Buster Williams – bass
Billy Hart – drums


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