One Track Mind: Nick Hempton, “Catch and Release” (2014)

Over the last couple of years John Oates of Hall & Oates fame went about releasing a song a month, culminating into three, five-song EP’s that he released earlier this year under a single long player, Good Road To Follow. Adapting to new technology and the rapidly changing preferences in how the listening public prefers to have their music delivered to them, Oates admitted to SER’s Nick DeRiso during the middle of this project, “We’re experimenting. We’re looking at it a little bit differently. We’ll release a song every month, and then maybe come out with a physical EP. Maybe there will be a series of EPs. Really, it’s uncharted territory. We’re just going to take it as it comes.”

What does the dark-haired half of the most successful duo in American pop history have to do with the New York-based Australian jazz saxophonist Nick Hempton, you might ask? Well, Hempton is also tinkering with the idea of recording and releasing songs one at a time, with the hope of attracting listeners one song at a time, too. But Hempton is doing it with a decidedly jazz twist.

Every six weeks, Hempton and his band will produce one original new tune, recorded live at New York’s famed Smalls Jazz Club during off-hours with no edits or overdubs. They will do this for a year, which my math tells me they’ll put out a total of eight or nine tunes total. That’s enough to fill out an entire album if Hempton later decides to do so, but the idea is to reel in happy customers as the project is in progress.

Like ArtistShare, fans will be able to receive frequent updates on the Catch and Release project through a blog dedicated for it, with posts, pictures and videos; a view of the whole sausage factory that turns ideas into recorded performances. Unlike ArtistShare, this isn’t crowdfunding; you support the artist the conventional way, by paying for your copy of the record. Only this time, the record is broken up into bite-sized, easy to swallow downloadable pieces.

As a matter of fact, tune #1, written by Hempton, was taped just a little more than a week ago and it’s already set for release for Tuesday, July 15. Like the project itself, this number is named “Catch and Release,” featuring Hempton on alto sax, Dan Aran on drums, Jeremy Manasia on piano and Dave Baron on bass.

“Catch” has a brief, Coltranian rubato intro, and then the band launches into the same figure Hempton just introduced but at a brisk pace and played essentially as a minor blues. Already, this has that classic Blue Note Records sentiment going for it. Hempton’s lively alto solo draws all the right comparisons to Cannonball Adderley and Manasia follows with a burning aside of his own, both anchored firmly by Baron’s abiding swing. Aran and his drums put a rousing cap to the solos section before a return to the head.

The quality of jazz has never been better — “Catch and Release” is testimony to that — but the delivery system has long needed an overall as record sales continue to dwindle. Maybe, just maybe, Nick Hempton has found a solution. We’re very hopeful that he has, not just for his sake but for the sake of the entire genre.

*** Purchase a 99¢ download of “Catch and Release” ***

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.