Nick Hempton Band
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Nick Hempton Band

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
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"The Business"

"Big fat grooves, a real sense of swing; strong melodies and even stronger rhythms..." - All About Jazz


"Nick Hempton Band"

Alto saxophonist Nick Hempton is a funny man. Though not discernable from the picture on the cover of his debut, Nick Hempton Band, his liner notes tell all.

Australia-born Hempton landed in New York in the winter of 2004, with the aim of putting a band together. The first pick was easy; he already knew drummer Dan Aran. But Hempton needed to do more than march to the beat of his own drummer. His search continued and he came upon bassist Marco Panascia, who fit into his scheme of things. Fate continued to be kind and pianist Art Hirahara became the third chosen one. With his band in place, Hempton took five originals, three standards and four eager musicians into the studio.

Savvy enough to write strong tunes, Hempton is also a sumptuous player. He lets melodies flow out of his horn and saturate the air before turning them into compelling ideas through earthy and articulate phrasing. He loses no time making that apparent as he swings into "Get This...," a title somewhat obvious as to ongoing intention. Once the music comes on, the band shows just where it is at, with swing the calling card on this captivating tune. Hempton lets the feeling seep in and then turns his attention to fabricating resoundingly colorful textures. Hirahara is a fluid player, his tone modulated and easy and countenancing his path of flowing notes and emphatic chords.

"I'm A Nurse, I'm An Engineer" has a jaunty beat sniffing at a Latin melody. Hempton carves tensile phrases that he jolts into bop territory. Hirahara is once again the other side of the coin, driving the pulse with some firm help from Aran and Panascia. "The Artful Roger" adds another bright spark, with Hempton in his comfort zone playing with fervor and undiminished passion, and his band proving that he chose well.

"But Beautiful" drops a velvet curtain on the CD, with singer Jimmy Lategano dripping melancholy while stirring the embers of the song's emotion, as Hempton kindles a warm glow.

Being the clever fellow he knows he is, Hempton at the very end of the liner notes tells the reader not to read but to listen to the music. Do both, and have twice the fun. - All About Jazz


"Nick Hempton Band @ Smalls"

12:30 AM – Nick Hempton Quartet @ Smalls

Tall and lean, dressed in a black suit and black shirt, alto saxophonist Nick Hempton cut a classic figure as he led his group through a straight-up, bopping set. His band had a refreshing frankness, free from ambiguity or doubts and getting straight to the point on each tune.

Hempton’s huge, robust tone led the way, his sturdy, economical lines gleaming and cutting like tempered steel. Switching to tenor sax for “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You,” he produced a deep soulful juke-joint moan that seemed to well up from somewhere around his shoes. Bassist Marco Panascia made a fine match for Hempton, with direct, lyrical solos that held firm against the leader’s hard blowing. Art Hirahara rounded off the sound with a smart, sophisticated bounce on piano, while drummer Dan Aran kept things moving cleanly with his skidding drumbeat.

At the tail end of the set, the stakes were raised when trumpet star Roy Hargrove came running up to the bandstand. Sitting in for “Minority,” Hargrove proved the axiom that great players lift those around them, sparking a new level of fire in Hempton and Hirahara’s solos. As Hempton wrapped it up, Hargrove smiled and said simply, “that’s a great sound.” - The Jazz Observer


"The Business"

The workaday details of the business world don't really relate to jazz very much. Boring meetings, piles of paperwork, and endless conference calls have little to do with the in-the-moment magic that surrounds this music, but that doesn't mean that jazz musicians don't know how to get down to business when the tape is rolling.

For his Posi-Tone debut, saxophonist Nick Hempton brought his working band back into the studio, and they dive right into the music from the get-go. Hempton immediately establishes himself as a saxophonist with a bold voice, capable of comfortably moving from Brazilian waters at high tide ("Flapjacks In Belo"), to swing-based music ("Art Is In The Groove"), to old school balladry of a smoky nature ("Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You"), all within a three-song span.

As the saxophonist moves from piece to piece and style to style, he proves to be somewhat of a tonal chameleon, capable of dressing up his own sound with different drapery that fits the decor of the room he might happen to be in at that moment. When the lights are low and the room is dark, his tone has a breathy bouquet, giving off an irresistibly seductive aroma, but he doesn't dwell in this space. In other places, he simply radiates the bright energy of a song through his horn.

As of the release of this recording, Hempton's quartet has been working together for nearly six years, but it clearly hasn't become complacent during its time together. Hempton's compositions continually push the band, and the presence of guitarist Yotam Silberstein on several tracks helps broaden its aural horizons. Silberstein adds sensational solo work to "Art Is In The Groove," and brings out the punchy personality within Hempton's music elsewhere.

Drummer Dan Aran serves as the navigator for the band, charting a course that takes them from hi-hat driven rock ("Cold Spring Fever") to swing of all speeds and manners ("Carry On Up The Blues" and "From Bechet, Byas And Fats"), with other stops along the way, but he's only one member of this able-bodied crew. Bassist Marco Panascia provides the perfect bottom-end movement, from walking bass lines to percolating solos, in every piece, while pianist Art Hirahara is in prime form, whether setting the ball in motion with a unique chordal statement delivered in metronomic fashion ("Not Here For A Haircut") or soloing over a delightfully waltzing beat ("The Wading Game").

Hempton exhibits sterling technique, soloing of a tasteful-meets-tasty nature, and a compositional acuity that few possess, making this record sound more like pleasure than business. - All About Jazz


"The Business"

The other day I bought an album from eMusic, and by the end of the second track I already regretted it. I won’t tell you what record it was; I’ll just say it was the second album by a young alto saxophonist (the only album of his available on eMusic), and as I posted on Twitter yesterday, I should have taken the fact that it had the word “Cerebral” right there in the title as a warning. My own fault.

Here’s the thing. I have no problem with jazz musicians being smart. You’ve gotta have a certain baseline level of intelligence to want to play jazz, period. I just wish certain players wouldn’t advertise their smarts (or, more accurately, their level of education) quite so crudely in their compositions. Don’t launch an album with two minutes of unaccompanied, twisty-turny, knuckle-popping saxophone acrobatics and then slowly drift into some midtempo, rhythmically complex but melodically wan exercise in tricky scales and harmonic befuddlement. Start with a song. A composition that’ll stick in the listener’s ear and brain, something that’ll make them put your CD in the player a second, third and fourth time, anticipating hearing that hook again.

Australian-born, New York-based saxophonist Nick Hempton (also an alto player, by the way) understands this. The second CD by his quartet, The Business, is the product of a sharp and witty mind (track titles include “Press One for Bupkis,” “Not Here for a Haircut,” and “Flapjacks in Belo”), but it’s also the work of a kick-ass band. When they swing, they do it like they want you to get up and dance. There are sections of the piece “From Bechet, Byas and Fats,” a nearly nine-minute burner at the disc’s midpoint, that sound like they’re heading into Louis Jordan territory. And how does The Business begin? With “Flapjacks in Belo,” a piece that takes a Brazilian rhythm, then lights its tail feathers on fire. Meanwhile, the melody line is more than memorable; it’s practically unforgettable. It’s one of those hooks you’ll wish was available as a ringtone.

The whole record is like this. Even on ballads (there are two, of 10 tracks total), these guys burn it down. The band includes pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Marco Panascia, drummer Dan Aran, and guitarist Yotam Silberstein, all but one of whom are part of Hempton’s working band. So maybe you should go check them out, minus Silberstein, when they celebrate the album’s release with a performance at Smalls on Saturday. - Burning Ambulance


"The Business"

Saxophonist Nick Hempton's decision to call his second album The Business might be a comment on the commercial nature of jazz, or it might be a rather hubristic statement about the nature of his own music. Big, fat grooves, a real sense of swing, strong melodies and even stronger rhythms suggest that Hempton is right to name this album The Business on both counts: because this is a high-quality collection of straight-ahead jazz with an immediate accessibility.

Hempton, originally from Australia and now resident in New York, formed his band in 2005. The quartet appeared on his debut recording, the self-produced Nick Hempton Band (2009). Now signed to Posi-Tone, the original lineup is back for this second album's collection of Hempton originals plus two fascinating covers.

Hempton is equally adept on alto and tenor saxophones. On alto, his tone is dry and crisp, lending itself well to up-tempo, swinging numbers like "Flapjacks In Belo" or the slinky "Press One For Bupkis." His tone is somewhat warmer and more rounded on tenor, giving a smoky, late-night sound to the band's bluesy take on Don Redman's "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You."

Six years working together ensures that the band is tight and cohesive. Bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Dan Aran form a solid rhythmic foundation, and both display invention in their soloing. Guest guitarist Yotam Silberstein is used sparingly but to good effect, bringing a lightness of touch to his solo on "Cold Spring Fever" and joining Hempton in some fluid unison playing on "Carry On Up The Blues." Pianist Art Hirahara is also an effective rhythm player, adding some understated lines to underpin Hempton's lead playing. When Hirahara gets the chance to solo he shows himself to have a similar lightness and fluidity of his own, his solo on "Not Here For A Haircut" precise but swinging.

While the band's style is generally straight-ahead, blues is at the core of much of the music, lending it an emotional connection that's not always present in the contemporary mainstream. The Business is commercial, but not at the expense of the music's heart. - All About Jazz


Discography


"The Business" (2011, Posi-Tone) - Currently getting worldwide airplay.

"Nick Hempton Band" (2009, Triple-Distilled/ Self Produced)

Photos

Bio

Nick Hempton is an alto and tenor saxophonist, composer and bandleader producing new music in the modern/mainstream tradition. Calling New York home since 2004, he headlines clubs throughout the city, as well as concert halls and festivals around the world. Influenced by the greats of the instrument- Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Cannonball Adderley, etc, and informed by a youth misspent playing Rhythm & Blues and Ska in his native Australia, Hempton's jazz is original, approachable, and always swinging.

Summer 2011 sees the release of Nick's second album, and his first in partnership with LA-based jazz label Posi-Tone. "The Business" is an energetic quartet outing featuring Nick's powerful working band of almost six years, and is the anticipated follow-up to the band's self-titled debut. The album showcases eight brand-new Hempton originals, alongside a 1920s classic and some barn-burning Roland Kirk. Following the release of the new album, the band will kick off a series of performances throughout New York and the tri-state area with a CD launch at the band's New York home, Smalls Jazz Club; then continuing through the fall with tours through the Midwest, Southeast, and New England.

Hempton's debut album ("Nick Hempton Band") was released in February 2009 to uniformly positive reviews- "One of those rare recordings that seems to get better with every listening." Recorded at the same studio, with the same musicians as the new album, it introduced the spirited, high-energy sound which has become one of the band's calling-cards. Receiving worldwide radio play, the CD found its way into many stations' "Most Requested" lists for that year, and was included in the All About Jazz "Top 10 Releases of 2009". "A perfect example of just how good modern jazz music can sound."

A truly international outfit, the Nick Hempton Band was formed in 2005. As a group, they have played most of the major New York venues, and toured both regionally and internationally, most recently joining singer Bianca Wu for a sold-out concert series in Hong Kong in January 2011. The personnel remains unchanged, and the years of collaboration have made the group "an unusually sharp, cohesive unit." Israeli drummer Dan Aran brings a killer swing feel and wide jazz vocabulary, combined with a thorough knowledge of middle-eastern music; Italian bassist Marco Panascia has one of the deepest grooves in jazz today, honed through his time playing with Herbie Hancock, Kenny Barron, Joe Lovano, Dado Moroni among many others. Pianist Art Hirahara's lush voicings and forward-looking approach act as a foil to the others' fervor, but his innate swing, and past experience with the likes of Rufus Reid, Vincent Herring, Akira Tana, etc allow him to cook whenever called upon.

In demand as a sideman as well as a leader, Nick has performed with some of the top names in Jazz and popular music including Slide Hampton, Roy Hargrove, Harry Whitaker, James Carter, Joe Magnarelli, Jeremy Pelt, The Temptations, and many more; and has featured on dozens of albums encompassing the full range of popular music styles. He has made numerous television and radio appearances, and has also developed an excellent reputation as a music educator, holding private lessons and masterclasses for school- and mature-age students.

On stage, in the studio, and on the road, Nick Hempton and the band are enjoying an ever-increasing workload as their notoriety spreads; and with a new album about to hit shelves, they're proving that they really are "The Business".