That burly baritone sax, it can be an abrasive sound maker, but in the right hands it can be this warm, inviting sonority. The first thing noticeable about Andrew Hadro’s baritone is that he caresses the big sax as lovingly as he’s caressing melodies.
Finishing 2nd in his class at the prestigious New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and having performed with Chico Hamilton, Bjorkestra, James Moody and Junior Mance, Hadro makes his debut as a leader well-prepared from woodshedding in the classroom and on the stage. The musical message from For Us, The Living (April 1, 2014, Tone Rogue Records) is, quite appropriately, a homage to the masters who preceded him. Hadro’s way of doing it is by celebrating the masters who are still with us by performing four of their compositions and by originals for the remaining six, which is Hadro channeling his influences onto his own personality.
Assisting Hadro in this endeavor is Daniel Foose on standup bass, Carmen Staaf on piano and the illustrious Matt Wilson on drums.
So, the requisite background is there and so is a very capable backing band. But it’s Hadro’s human tone and mature mode of expression I keep coming back to. I don’t think that can be taught. It’s what elevates Hadro’s own “Allegrecia,” which starts with a melancholy mood and after a light-footed Foose bass spotlight, gets increasingly strident. Still, Hadro’s notes don’t break until he reaches a crucial turning point in his solo. Wilson, who is well utilized in these sessions, moves into a faster tempo but motif remains.
Julian Shore’s “Give” is gorgeously rendered, a fetching melody, in the style of classic pop. Hadro and Staaf combine for lyrical lines. Hadro plays economically, relying on sweet sentiment do the job. Even on a jaunty tune such as the original “Bright Eyes,” Hadro plays laid back, lazily drawing out his notes and letting the tone carry the message.
Hadro takes James Davis’ stately “Cotton” and turns it into something resembling an old spiritual. This is also where Wilson demonstrates his prowess, setting the pace with a light, nearly invisible hand and adding depth with intricate cymbal and snare fills. His rim work is also sublime, on “Forever, All Ways,” a song where Hadro suggests the breadth of his talents first with a turn on flute and then later with a passion filled baritone sax solo that briefly wanders outside.
Perhaps the best thing about For Us, The Living, however, is that it doesn’t rely on solos to make it a success as the alluring set of straight jazz that it is. There’s much to be said about heartfelt, soulful delivery and on that count, Andrew Hadro has said a mouthful.
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