Pianist NOAH HAIDU Reaches New Expressive Heights with Infinite Distances out 2/10/2017 on Cellar Live
Lyrical, intricate album features Sharel Cassity, Jon Irabagon, Jeremy Pelt with two tight, versatile rhythm sections
Haidu’s third outing includes bold originals and a 6-part suite inspired by a passage from poet Rainer Maria Rilke:
“….between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist”
Earning praise from Jazzwise as “unquestionably one of the most confident and impressive of all the new pianists,” Brooklyn-based pianist Noah Haidu returns after his well-received Posi-Tone releases Slipstream (2011) and Momentum (2013) with the expansive and ambitious Infinite Distances. Distances explores a concept inspired by a conversation with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who quoted the writer and philosopher Rainer Maria Rilke in reference to another musician whom he was very close to, but also quite far from.
With a rich ensemble sound and subtly powerful arrangements, the date features alto saxophonist Sharel Cassity, soprano/tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and an august rhythm section with drummer John Davis and bassist Ariel Alejandro de la Portilla (four of 11 tracks feature Peter Brendler on bass and Mark Ferber on drums).
At 44, Haidu possesses the sound and maturity of a seasoned artist who has put in countless hours on the bandstand, sometimes far from glitz and glamour. Infinite Distances is informed by his deep musical studies, not least of all with Kenny Barron at Rutgers and David Hazeltine at SUNY Purchase. But well before beginning his degree work, the New Jersey native made it his business to pay dues and gain an equally if not more important wealth of experience playing live on the scene.
Following an unconventional career path, Haidu opted half-way through college to leave Rutgers and move to Philadelphia, where he was able to soak up the wisdom and some of the feeling of luminaries including Mickey Roker, Bootsie Barnes, Al Jackson, Tony Williams (saxophone), Sam Dockery, Tyrone Brown, Eddie Green and many more. Following a 1993 move to Brooklyn, Haidu began performing in predominantly black-owned clubs in Queens such as The Village Door and The Skylark in Jamaica and Club Tamara in Springfield Gardens, burrowing deep into the lived tradition with drummers Walter Perkins (“Baby Sweets”) and Clarence ‘Tootsie’ Beane, among others.
No wonder that on Infinite Distances we hear such urgency and authentic expression from the start, in the complex and driving modality of the opener “The Subversive.” “I’d like to think there’s something subversive about this recording,” says Haidu, “in that it integrates swing, modernism, risk-taking, and what I think of as a soulful approach. Those elements are usually kept pretty segregated these days.” Following Haidu’s blistering first solo comes the fiery Irabagon on soprano. “Jon’s a major voice on the saxophone right now,” Haidu contends. “I noticed on this session that he uses a different approach on every take. It seems to be a conscious strategy, exploring various directions that are possible in my music.”
Haidu refers to the next six tracks — the Rilke-inspired “Infinite Distances” suite — as ”a musical reflection on relationships, loss, and self-realization.”
“Hanaya,” a slow waltz with Pelt on flugelhorn, finds Cassity soloing in fine form. “Sharel made a huge contribution to this project at the recordings and gigs out on the road,” Haidu remarks. “She gets a great first take every time in the studio. Her alto is a big part of the sound of the group.” The title itself is a reference to Haidu’s wife, Hannah: “Her parents are from Korea and called her ‘Hanaya’. I wrote this for her after her father passed away. It was hard to watch her go through that.”
“This Great Darkness,” Haidu explains, “is again from Rilke, referring to the vast space between people, to me it sounds pretty foreboding. It’s dark and Jon’s solo moans over the line that Sharel and I play behind him. Not a lot of chords, more of a landscape.” “Can We Talk?” in contrast, “is a direct emotional statement. The feel is somewhere between jazz, R&B, and gospel.” Closing out the suite, “Guardians of Solitude” features Haidu and Cassity again in spirited form. “Coming from Rilke, I think this is about respecting the space and solitude of your friend or partner,” Haidu offers.
Although Haidu recorded trio renditions of “Momentum,” “Juicy” and Joe Henderson’s classic “Serenity” on his previous recording, he chose to revisit them here in an expanded format. “These pieces were great as trio vehicles, but they’ve become more fully realized as I’ve added horns to the band. Those songs have really evolved on the bandstand.”
Calling John Davis “one of the great drummers of this generation” Haidu elaborates: “He has a special beat, and the swing and looseness to go with me when I stretch out rhythmically. While he can hit hard, he’s one of the few drummers I can count on to play dynamics with the piano. I can take a song in any direction, and he’s right there with me.”
Of bassist Peter Brendler, Haidu comments “Pete’s a great player and composer who can handle whatever twists and turns the music takes, and his irrepressible humor permeates every rehearsal, gig and session.” Drummer Mark Ferber, adds Haidu, “has a background in the sciences and plays effortlessly on through-composed material regardless of difficulty. His precision never comes at the expense of feeling and spontaneity which are always present.”
Haidu first gained the attention of the jazz world through live appearances and recordings with heavyweights such as Mike Stern, Ambrose Akinmusire, Benny Golson, Vincent Herring, Eddie Henderson, Billy Hart, Duane Eubanks and Winard Harper. In addition to his acclaimed output as a leader, he has played at top venues in New York including The Blue Note, Birdland, The Jazz Standard, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, and in cities around the world from Oslo to Istanbul to Guayachil, Ecuador.
January 27-28 – Twins Jazz – Washington, D.C.
February 9th – Birdland – New York, NY
February 12th – The Falcon – Marlboro, NY
February 19th – An die Musik LIVE! – Baltimore, MD