Let's Call This That is a powerful, personal statement of jazz from the hands of pianist Hal Galper. “It’s ok for a Studio date” Hal explains. “Recording’s are for documentation. I like playing for an audience; it’s a social event.” The excitement contained in this recording was enabled by the Hal Galper Trio. “The trio has been together for six years” Hal reflected, who then went on to describe the ‘sound’ of the group. “The roles are always shifting in this trio; sometimes the prominent voice(s) may be piano and bass, or drum and piano, or just piano or bass.” When asked to name his influences, he cites Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner off the top, but follows with “I’m trying to sound like me. When I grew up, I wanted to be somebody, but I think I should have been more specific.”
This CD is with a quintet, a quintet that had the luxury of working for two weeks prior to the recording session. “The date was a lot of fun” Tim Hagans recalled. “We had played the music for two weeks on tour so we were ready to hit. There was a special cohesion happening, and the rhythm section has a special ‘feeling’ when they play. It was very comfortable playing with these guys. Hal did a great job of putting together the music for this date” Hagans said.
"Let's Call This That" was composed by Sam Rivers. “Sam was at my postgraduate school, he was always pushing your limits. I met Steve (Ellington) while working with Sam” Hal recalls. “We came up with things in Boston that nobody else was doing at the time; like flexi-time and playing free on the standards. Nobody else was doing that stuff. “We just played free.”
“We’ve recorded "The Babes of Cancun" three times” Hal admits. The performance brings to the foreground the sensitivity of the trio. “The trio plays together so that it sounds like a three part fugue” he explains. “I’ve worked with Steve in a trio setting for over ten years. Steve’s always playing with you.” As for the composer, Hal states that “Ron Miller ( a professor at the University of Miami) is my favorite composer today.”
“Jacki Byard wrote Diane's Melody for his daughter. Jackie gave this song to me when I was studying with him” Hal remembers. “I was devastated when I heard that he had been shot and killed. This album is dedicated to Jackie.” The overall feeling of this composition is one of melancholia. “We played this as a dirge.”
"Upon The Swing" is by David Freisen, the bassist. Asked about the loose, free interpretation of this tune, Hal said “I like to play all kinds of ways. I used to try and play ‘some way,’ but I got bored. There isn’t ‘a’ way to play for me. I felt like playing this way. I used to play free a lot with Steve in Boston. I love to play free!”
“I don’t play with a mental picture in my mind.” This is the gospel of Hal Galper. Even though the title of this song "In Love In Peacock Park" could evoke a mental image, Hal concentrates on the ‘feeling’ of the tune. Hal’s solo creates a strong feeling in my mind, and reaches a climax of utter ecstacy. “It’s another tune by Ron Miller. His root motions are very classical. This tune is very difficult to play loosely.”
"I’ll Keep On Loving You" is a classic jazz ballad composed by Bud Powell. “Bud Powell is a very lyrical writer, and simple” Hal states. He confesses that “I’ve always tried to emulate Bud’s dryness in my trio. His presentation was so dry, so unadorned, like a dry martini.” This performance is a kind of chamber piece, with only three musicians participating. “We recorded this with Jeff Johnson, Jerry Bergonzi and myself; no drums. Bergonzi is my favorite tenor sax player and has his own voice.”
Charlie Parker’s "Constellation" is a be-bop classic. But Hal explains the odyssey in finding the original version. “I miss-copied it on the lead sheet. Bird used a "Honeysuckle Rose" bridge and I used an "I Got Rhythm" bridge. When I realized that my version of the bridge was wrong, I researched (with a friend of mine in Detroit) for three days to find the correct bridge.” Instead of using the cliche approach most musicians have in dealing with the music of Parker, the quintet uses gestures to get to the ‘pulse’ (which is a pseudo-form in and of itself). Fantastic solos by Hagans and Bergonzi highlight this arrangement. “This performance is really in one,” Hal illuminates.
When asked to speak about Hagans and Johnson, Hal said “Tim Hagans has the courage of his lines. If you’re in the middle of a line, and it’s about to go off in a direction that has nothing to do with the chord or the tune, you’ve got to have the courage to go all the way. Tim let’s a line go anywhere. He’s very disciplined and a consummate professional. Jeff Johnson has been with us for six years. He’s from Seattle, and his playing is original. A real giant. When Jeff joined the band, Steve and I could finally play the way we used to play in Boston. Jeff fell into our trio automatically.”
I asked Hal to recall major events in his life. “I’m from Salem, Mass, and Old Milltown. I went to Berklee. Bill Chase, Toshiko, Jake Hanna, Paul Fontaine and Jimmy Mosher were all students there at the time. Boston was a very vital town musically. I played with Tony Williams when he was twelve, in his dad’s band. The school was great, with Herb Pomeroy’s Big Band. There was a great black jazz scene on Massachusetts Avenue. That’s where Miles first heard Ahmad Jamal. The town was modern. Most of Duke’s band came from Boston. Boston musicians know, they don’t brag. I had a scheme that if I stayed in Boston, I could get more work because all of my peers were going to move to New York. As it worked out, Tony Williams, Sam Rivers and I were the only ones from our generation to move to New York!”
In discussing his arrival in New York, Hal remembers “When I first came to New York, it was a cold town. Someone told me to get off at the Port Authority, so I did. It was at 178th street at Two O’ Clock in the morning with my B-bag. The subway was 20 cents, but I only had 19 cents, so I had to walk one hundred blocks. Nobody would give me a penny so I could ride on the subway!” Hal eventually became ‘in demand’ as a rising young pianist. He was soon hired by Chet Baker. “Chet Baker was great. It was my first big-time gig. I learned a lot. He was a real improviser.” The Chet Baker group with Hal recorded an album for Limelight in the mid-sixties.
As to his tenure with the Cannonball Adderley quintet (1972-74) Hal recalls that “Bob Cranshaw recommended me to Cannonball. Bobby Timmons had just left (after George Duke). Ironically, Bobby had recommended me to Nat, and I was living in New York, and the band was in Boston, so they flew me up to Boston for the audition. I sat in for a couple of nights and then Nat says ‘come to Booker’s room.’ I was in and joined the band on a permanent basis. I still miss Cannonball and playing with that band. It’s an experience that will never happen again. But when I came back to New York I thought things would happen having the Cannonball stamp of approval. It didn’t matter.”
Hal soon became involved in the fusion movement of the seventies. “I was attracted to the ‘fusion sound’ in the mid-seventies. It was very experimental at the time. I did two albums in the fusion mode (on Mainstream Records).” He had signed a recording contract with an ‘alleged A&R, Producer and Label Owner’ and recorded three albums. Hal states with fondness “My first records as a leader were on Mainstream and I’m very proud of them.”
In the mid-seventies, Hal recorded his masterpiece, Now Here This, with Terumasa Hino and Tony Williams. This record has become a musicians favorite. By the end of the seventies, things had changed in the jazz scene. Conservative values were becoming the norm for society. So Hal had the fortune of landing the piano chair with the Phil Woods Quintet/Quartet in the early eighties. The band was the personification of ‘Classic’ jazz. Standards and bebop tunes, all played with both fire and sophistication. “Playing with Phil Woods brought me back to the standards, and a higher level of group interaction.”
This CD represents an artist who strives for a consistent level of performance and artistic vision. Hal has stayed the course for many years, and this experience has allowed him to reach for his own voice and sound. The work of a real musician cannot be ignored and for Hal and his quintet, the sounds of this band should be heard around the world.