Colors From A Giant's Kit
Sir Roland Hanna
2011 / IPO Recordings
Review by Kathy Parsons
Colors From A Giant's Kit is an incredible collection of fourteen original and arranged piano solos recorded by the late Sir Roland Hanna (1932-2002). Calling this music jaw-dropping is a major understatement, for both the sheer joy of playing that permeates the music and the unbelievable chops Sir Hanna possessed. Although he was always interested in jazz, the young Roland Hanna also received classical training at Juilliard and Eastman Schools of Music. Along with being a solo performer, Hanna served as Sarah Vaughn’s musical director and was a regular member of The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, among a plethora of other gigs. He composed music in many genres, often combining jazz and classical elements into a style referred to as Classical Jazz. The music on this album covers a broad spectrum of music that clearly demonstrates Hanna’s versatility as well as his brilliant, unique musical vision. It is also interesting to note that Hanna was knighted in 1970 by then-President William V.S. Tubman of Liberia for humanitarian services to that country.
Colors From A Giant's Kit begins with the title tune, a piece that exudes joy and a playful nature as Hanna’s nimble fingers dance all over the piano. Complex rhythms and harmonies send this piece soaring skyward. “Natalie Rosanne” is much more classical and subdued with a gorgeous, heartfelt melody that seems to speak of love in a hymn-like style. Next up is the 9-minute “A Story, Often Told But Seldom Heard.” Deeply emotional in nature, this piece is a perfect example of Hanna’s Classical Jazz. Improvised passages are woven throughout the more classical structure of the piece, telling a story of many layers and colors - an amazing piece! “Robbin’s Nest” is the first of the arrangements (as opposed to originals), but Hanna effortlessly makes it his own. Bright, rhythmic, and full of energy, this is jazz piano at its best. Hanna gives the jazz standard, “My Romance,” an elegant, classical touch that contrasts beautifully with the more effervescent pieces. Then along comes “Blues,” taking us in yet another direction - love it! “‘Cello” slows it down to a soulful and sensuous tempo - again very classical and deeply expressive. My favorite track is the wonderful “20th Century Rag,” a Hanna original. Performed at a leisurely tempo, the piece is playful and whimsical with a catchy melody that just won’t quit. I’ve ordered the sheet music and hope I can do it justice! John Coltrane’s “Naima” cools things down a bit, ever graceful and flowing. Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” closes the set with an infectious energy in a moderate tempo. Complex chords add to the “wow!” factor and leave the listener awed and ready to hit the “replay” button.
Colors From A Giant's Kit is an amazing tour de force by one of jazz piano’s true masters. If you are new to Sir Roland Hanna’s music, as I was, this is a great place to start! I give it my highest recommendation!
May 17, 2011