With John In Mind
With John In Mind
Steve Heckman tenor, baritone & soprano sax, Matt Clark piano, Lee Alexander bass, Diego Voglino drums
Song List: R.S.V.P., With John in Mind, Body and Soul, Sad Poetry, I Am Not Your Fantasy, Eye of the Beast, Everything Happens to Me, Rodney’s Red Raincoat, Lost in a Champagne Fog
“Virtuosic command of his horns and genuine feeling.”
“Exciting music, adventuresome and musically superb.”
“A fine debut release…reminds one of a Coltrane record.”
“My favorite new release.”
“A well-crafted and compelling artistic statement. This is a kick-ass saxophonist with finesse. His solo on Body and Soul is phenomenal, as is his bari playing on Everything Happens to Me. The tunes, the band, Heckman’s sound on tenor, all are world-class. I am knocked out. This CD is killin’, no holds barred. Steve Heckman and his supreme quartet has conjured up a jazz album that is as welcome as a cool breeze on a hot summer’s night.”
Live at Yoshi's
Live At Yoshi’s
Steve Heckman tenor & soprano sax, Matt Clark piano, Karen Horner bass, Jemal Ramirez drums
Song List: Soul Eyes, Equinox, You’re A Weaver Of Dreams, Ode To The Sunsinger, This Is The Moment, Theosphere, Blame It On My Youth, Deomede
“Live at Yoshi’s showcases Heckman’s amazing Coltrane chops in a very reverent tribute…the quartet uses a high-energy fluidity to create a mood similar to the classic music to which it pays a vibrant and loving tribute…This is a pleasure to listen to…Steve Heckman’s inspiration should be a welcome experience for listeners.”
“Tenor saxophonist Steve Heckman makes no secret about the fact that his main musical inspiration is John Coltrane. His tone is reminiscent of Trane’s… and he includes some of the same spirituality in his own originals. Heckman comes across not only as respectful of his idol, but is creative within the boundaries of the style… Heckman has impressive technique, the willingness to stretch himself, and brings back the spirit of Coltrane. Live at Yoshi’s is recommended.”
“Live at Yoshi’s” catches the Heckman group in admirable form. The leader’s fluid technique and tonal nuances may remind you of Jerry Bergonzi’s brand of Coltrane derivations. Skill and practice are required to play this way…there is the mystical, spiritual vibrato, the urgency of his phrases, and the harmonic approach–pentatonic scales, superimposed chord substitutions and certain chromatic embellishments…A high-energy…heroic torrent…(that) suggests a total mind-body connection.”
“Heckman’s playing on tenor and soprano is assertive, thoughtful, and devoid of cliches. He builds and develops each statement, taking time to build tension…The program is split right down the middle with the quartet tackling both challenging originals by Heckman..as well as vintage works like Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” and John Coltrane’s “Equinox”. Its equal parts edgy, outside dueling, and inside, concentrated exposition.”
“Steve’s tenor and soprano sax skills are at the top of the stack. This excellent recording will make your ears just stand up and listen. A superb jazz CD!”
“Heckman’s surging, shiny-toned tenor and keening soprano saxophones fashion a post-bop matrix that is spell-binding.”
Born To Be Blue
Born To Be Blue
Steve Heckman tenor & baritone sax, Howard Alden guitar, Matt Clark piano, Marcus Shelby bass, Akira Tana drums
Song List: Alone Together, Moon and Sand, Andrew’s Pate, Born To Be Blue, How Deep Is The Ocean, I Thought About You, We Will Meet Again, The Things We Did Last Summer, I Remember Zoot, Lazy Afternoon, Without A Song
“On his two previous albums, With John in Mind (2003) and Live at Yoshi’s (2005)…critical reaction emphasized the Coltrane connection. Limiting himself to tenor and soprano sax on his earlier albums, the new disc has the multi-reed player working with alto sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet as well. His playing is fluid and lyrical, his tone at times like a fine brandy–smooth and strong. Joined by guitarist Howard Alden, pianist Matt Clark, Marcus Shelby on bass, and drummer Akira Tana, Heckman delivers a tight, introspective set that has jazz standards breathing with new life as well as a new song or two. A tune like “How Deep is the Ocean” gets a straight-ahead swinging treatment with some intense interplay between Heckman, Alden, and drummer Tana. It is a masterful piece of work.
The Van Heusen/Mercer tune “I Thought About You” is handled as a tasty duet between Heckman on clarinet and Alden’s guitar. Heckman plays bass clarinet on “Lazy Afternoon” while the rhythm section sits out. Bill Evans’ “We Will Meet Again,” a little waltz, flows with dancing solos from Heckman, Alden, and Clark. “Without a Song” closes the album with a few Coltrane echoes, combined with some sweet guitar accents. Alden and Heckman work together like the proverbial well-oiled machine. There are also two Heckman originals on the album. “Andrew’s Pate” honors alto sax man Andrew Speight and “I Remember Zoot” is, of course, an ode to Zoot Sims, another of Heckman’s sax heroes. The album’s title song, plus “Alone Together,” the lyrical “Moon and Sand,” and “The Things We Did Last Summer” (with another of those masterful guitar/tenor sax duets), round out the album.
If you haven’t heard Heckman’s work, give Born To Be Blue a listen. It is straight-ahead swinging jazz played with panache. I think you’ll like what you hear. I know I did.”
“After totally digging the cover art, the release takes off from that point. Whimsical? Not really…Minimalist? Maybe…Pure grade fun would be the name of the game here, and Steve Heckman may well be the finest tenor player you have never heard of. Toss in famed guitarist Howard Alden, and you have a 4 and 5tet offering that is next to impossible to beat. Don’t just take my word for it, as Stan Getz said “Beautiful.” Charles Lloyd said that Heckman was a beautiful talent, and Pharoah Sanders summed it up with, “This cat can play.” Lyrically intense…Born to Be Blue is a deceptively subtle work of soulful nuances that aids in the sonic celebration and collaboration amongst this ensemble. For those of you unfamiliar with Heckman’s work, then think Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and Hank Mobley in a jazz scientific experiment that went horribly right. This being Heckman’s 3rd release, there is a darker, more grounded sound that permeates the recording. Introspective, intimate and intensely lyrical best describe one of 2013’s better releases. The band is an “A” list group bordering between the front and center sideman to artists that could double as leaders in their own right. Howard Alden is on guitar with a rhythm section including Akira Tana on drums, bassist Marcus Shelby and pianist Matt Clark. Born to Be Blue can strike with deadly force …you would have to be tone deaf not to appreciate this stellar recording. From a straight ahead groove, to smoldering lyricism to the more funky side of the blues, there is something here for everyone. 5 Stars” *****
“Search for Peace (Jazzed Media – 1069) is a kicking good collection of nine selections from saxophonist STEVE HECKMAN. In his efforts, Heckman on tenor and baritone saxes is joined by Howard Alden on guitar, Matt Clark on Hammond B-3 organ, Marcus Shelby on bass and Akira Tana on drums. Except for “Autumn in New York,” the program comprises jazz tunes, including an appealing original from Heckman titled “Hangin’ at Slugs,” a once was New York City jazz club. I was particularly taken with his take on the classic Thelonious Monk tune “Pannonica.” Heckman has a tone and approach somewhat reminiscent of Dexter Gordon. Alden is a consistently welcome presence while Clark’s fills are perfect complements for Heckman and Alden. It is fun to listen to five well-matched cats indulge in a blowing session that avoids ostentation, and sticks to the basics.”
“A sax man admired by Stan Getz, Heckman hits the lyricism in the music and gives his smart crew featuring Howard Alden room to…shine. Swinging smartly throughout…with an almost after hours feel, this set is in the pocket throughout and never lets you down.”
“Saxophonist Steve Heckman has absorbed bits and pieces of many masters, so a … matte finished take on Sonny Rollins, a fondness for Zoot Sims and a hint of Coleman Hawkins merge with the Trane influence to create something all together different, yet totally traditional. Heckman’s music is straight ahead, built in the image of those who came before him, but his blend-born sound belongs to no one else.”
“Born To Be Blue finds this San Francisco-based saxophonist in good company, with three other Bay Area bigwigs, and New York-based guitar heavyweight Howard Alden, joining him. Alden’s presence on the West Coast was actually the impetus behind the project, and it’s easy to see why. His reputation as a clean, classy, sharp and creative accompanist and soloist is well-founded here, and he blends beautifully with Heckman’s horn(s).”
“Heckman has mastered the art of the subtle seduction with saxophone in hand and, though clarinet (“I Thought About You”) and bass clarinet (“Lazy Afternoon”) don’t figure prominently in the picture, they make an impression; both horns deserve a more prominent position in future productions. Heckman has much to be proud of with Born To Be Blue; it’s brimming with the soul and sound of a true saxophone sophisticate.” ”
“Much is made of the influence of John Coltrane on multi-reedist Steve Heckman. His third recording, Born to be Blue, finds Heckman delving deeper into the standards territory [in] a very pleasant mainstream exercise performed by professionals at the top of their game. The presence of guitarist Howard Alden further promotes this session as a mainstream affair, tasteful, with … Matt Clark providing durable accompaniment and engaging solos. The highlight of this disc is when Heckman changes to clarinet or bass clarinet. Heckman’s clarinet on “I thought About You” is spot on. His tone is firm and uniform and his command competent. Bassist Marcus Shelby sets up a gentle walk that Alden strums and solos over. But it is Heckman that flexes his muscles, showing that the clarinet remains an essential jazz instrument. Heckman plays Jerome Moross’ brief “Lazy Afternoon” on bass clarinet, showing that this instrument was not just a sonic curiosity. Heckman is lyrical and able to use the instrument to register solid pathos in the lower register. For all of the Coltrane talk, Heckman reveals himself his own man with his own ideas, an extension of that master who inspired him.”
“Straight-ahead, no bullshit, true blue, full-on … jazz that skillfully blends melodics with improv so that no song is ever lost at any point. Guitarist Howard Alden concocts many an intriguing riff and passage. He’s basically from the Kessell/Ellis/Green school but has put a lot more into his adaptive process, especially in playing with time. Pianist Matt Clark displays a bright upbeat timbre, even in layback laconics, such as the opening of the title track. The rhythm section, Marcus Shelby (Bass) and Akira Tana (Drums) lay down very pleasant atmospheres the rest of the ensemble works out from. But it’s Heckman who’s the real foreground figure. Heckman’s been lauded by no less stellar figures than Stan Getz, Pharoah Sanders, and Charles Lloyd, among others, so this gives you an idea of what stratum he occupies. ”
Search For Peace
Search For Peace
Steve Heckman tenor & baritone sax, Howard Alden guitar, Matt Clark Hammond B-3 Organ, Marcus Shelby bass, Akira Tana drums
Song List: Fungii Mama, Grantstand, Search for Peace, Pannonica, Hi Fly, Hangin’ at Slugs, Melody for C, Autumn in New York, Spiral
“Saxophonist Steve Heckman’s Search For Peace serves as something of a companion piece to his previous album—Born To Be Blue (Jazzed Media, 2013). Both albums feature the same band, present (mostly) familiar material, and walk pleasingly straightforward paths. So what’s different? Well, for starters, Matt Clark played piano on Heckman’s last date, but he’s taken to the Hammond B-3 here. Then there’s Heckman’s choice of horns. The man-in-charge played clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone on Born To Be Blue; here, he favors his tenor and dusts off his baritone saxophone for a pair of performances. Finally, there’s the general style and tone of the records. Born To Be Blue was fairly pensive in nature, but Search For Peace, in the words of its creator, “represents more of a straight-ahead ‘blowing session’ in which there are no holds barred.”
Heckman seems to have a ball winding his way through some classic material, unearthing some infrequently covered gems, and interacting with his band mates on this one. He kicks things off with a nod to Blue Mitchell, via the trumpeter’s calypso-leaning “Fungii Mama,” continues with a high-energy run through guitarist Grant Green’s “Grantstand,” and works a more reflective angle with pianist McCoy Tyner’s “Search For Peace.” Next, Heckman delivers a version of “Pannonica” that’s devoid of quirky Monk-isms, a baritone saxophone-fronted, Brazilian-based version of Randy Weston’s “Hi-Fly,” and his own “Hangin’ At Slugs”—a blues-based tribute to the long-gone, rough-and-tumble New York club that gained notoriety after trumpeter Lee Morgan was shot there.
The last three numbers on the program—Sonny Clark’s “Melody For C,” the durable “Autumn In New York,” and John Coltrane’s rarely-covered “Spiral”—all point in different directions. “Melody For C” is down-the-middle swing, “Autumn In New York” gives Heckman a chance to work the familiar corners of a classic song with his baritone saxophone, and “Spiral” gives the soloists a chance to snake their way through chromatic changes.
Heckman and company don’t break any new ground with this one, but who says they have to? Steve Heckman seems to relish the opportunity to make music and explore material written by treasured jazz figures, and he sounds damn good doing it.”
“For Search For Peace, saxophonist Steve Heckman’s latest album, he has resurrected the quintet team from his 2013 disc, Born To Be Blue, this time for a compact set filled primarily with compositions by some of the great jazz artists. Guitarist Howard Alden is back joining with Matt Clark on Hammond B-3 organ, Marcus Shelby on bass, and Akira Tana on drums for an energetic exploration of tunes by Thelonious Monk, Grant Green, and John Coltrane among others. The quintet is a team of professionals who know their way around a tune. They know the sound they are after, and they make sure they get it. This is not jazz on the edge; this is a mainstream sound, one that will have you bopping right along with the music.Heckman
The album opens with a jumping Calypso piece by Blue Mitchell, “Fungii Mama.” Whether the title is some sort of mushroom reference (and what it might mean if it is), I can’t tell you. From Heckman’s liner notes, it seems he can’t either. Nonetheless, it is an infectious beginning for the album and an accurate forecast of what is to come. Guitar hero Grant Green’s “Grantstand” gives the quintet an opportunity to explode and they take it with gusto.
The album’s title song by piano great McCoy Tyner is a soul stirring ballad that shows Heckman in a quiet mode. Indeed he has a way with a ballad that evokes some of his best work. Later in the set, he puts down his tenor and picks up the baritone sax for a darkly sensitive reading of “Autumn in New York,” the one song from the Great American Songbook on the album. Monk’s gorgeous “Pannonica” (played by the composer on the celeste on his Brilliant Corners album) gets a very accessible interpretation from the quintet.
“Hi-Fly,” by pianist Randy Weston, has Heckman playing baritone sax once again in a high-octane samba arrangement of the piece. “Hangin’ at Slugs” is a Heckman original he describes as “an altered minor blues, with a definitively funky attitude.” An attitude that comes through in Alden’s guitar and Clark’s organ. They swing their way through Sonny Clark’s “Melody for C.” The set ends with the quintet driving through the complexities of John Coltrane’s “Spiral.”
Variety, soul, up-tempo bop—Search For Peace has it all, and has it played with joy and sensitivity by some top notch talent.”
“Steve Heckman is a meat ‘n potatoes saxophonist whose previous recording, Born to be Blue (Jazzed Media, 2013) was a trip through the heart of the jazz mainstream, circa 1960 (with better sonics). Heckman follows Born to be Blue with a right turn into hard bop atop of an organ-guitar quartet.
For the present recording, Heckman employs his same band as Born to be Blue with Matt Clark switching to the Hammond B-3. The result is a low-calorie funk-fest sans the grease. Crisp and clean, Search for Peace swings with a relaxed but intent momentum and contains not a few surprises. Guitarist Howard Alden is not the first guitarist that would come to mind for this repertoire, but he has been a Heckman collaborator for some time and makes the best of this established relationship. Blue Mitchell’s “Fungii Mama” provides a good jumping-off point for the band to warm up in a tropically environ similar to Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas.” Drummer Arkia Tana is tight and precise, directing the rhythm of the piece and bassist Marcus Shelby’s instrument is captured full-throated and true.
Grant Green’s “Grantstand” provides a showcase of Alden, who takes full advantage of the spare, but swinging accompaniment. Heckman takes McCoy Tyner’s “Search for Peace” and turns it into an understate ballad that is well-structured but still has ample room to move for the soloists. Heckman finds the “soft” in hard bop with his light-as-air treatment of Sonny Clark’s “Melody in C.” Alden again shines with a chord break before he begins his soloing proper. John Coltrane’s “Spiral” is given a full workout by Heckman who often cites Coltrane as an influence, but who has never fallen completely under the spell of that tenor titan.
Search for Peace is both a proper response to the previous Born to be Blue and a sensible evolution from that point. Heckman is a durable saxophonist with plenty of chops to spare. He always has his ear on the melody.”
“It’s a couple of years now since I heard Howard Alden down at Boisdale. I was impressed then and I’m equally impressed hearing him on this disc particularly alongside his fellow travellers.
Heckman’s a relatively new name to me but his modern/mainstream tenor (2 tracks on bari*) style gels perfectly with the ace guitarist.
How refreshing it is to hear players who can work the changes without resorting to histrionics – players who know a melody when they hear one.
And what melodies! Not Porter/Gershwin/Kern/Berlin etc but, with the exception of Vernon Duke’s Autumn in New York* and Heckman’s own Hangin’ at Slugs, the other 7 pieces are all composed, not by Tin Pan Alley guys, but by jazzmen of great merit. Thus, we have Fungii Mama (Blue Mitchell); Grantstand (Grant Green); Search For Peace (McCoy Tyner); Pannonica (Monk); Hi-Fly* (Randy Weston); Melody For C (Sonny Clark); Spiral (Coltrane).
All terrific heads that hook you from chorus one and in this respect Heckman’s Hangin’ at Slugs more than holds it own.
His playing has been paralleled with such as Dexter Gordon and Hank Mobley and I’ll go along with that. His baritone playing on Autumn is sumptuous and luxuriant like a glass of vintage Madeira savoured alongside a Tiramisu dessert. Alden has, of course, long been heralded as the natural successor to such as George Van Eps and his use of the 7 string guitar adds credence to this. (I’d be interested to hear from others on the merits of the extra string). Matt Clark keeps pace on the good old Hammond B3, Shelby frees him from the pedals and Tana lives up to his reputation as someone who could swing the Dead March in Saul should the occasion demand it.”
“Saxophonist Steve Heckman leads an all-pro lineup in a diverse set on his latest effort. Search for Peace is the Brooklyn native’s fourth recording under his own banner and it’s a great continuance of the outstanding musicianship heard on previous works. Joining Heckman are guitar great Howard Alden, drummer Akira Tana, bassist Marcus Shelby and Hammond B-3 player Matt Clark. The production is a nice selection of covers that showcase Heckman and company’s range and agility, with the unit burning the joint down, or chilling things out with relative ease. Featured are compositions by Blue Mitchell, Grant Green, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Randy Weston and Vernon Duke, with a groovin’ Heckman piece added to the mix . A great work by an outstanding leader and bandmates.”
back to top
“Rich-toned tenor player Steve Heckman has been a sideman for some top artists like Howard McGhee, Chet Baker, Tom Harrell, Jimmy Cobb and Billy Higgins, so he knows his way around the tradition. Here, he leads a top notch team of Howard Alden/g, Matt Clark/B3, Marcus Shelby/b and Akira Tana/dr through a gentle on-the-mind collection of smoky standards. The mix of B3, guitar and tenor fits together like BBQ ribs, cole slaw and mashed potatoes on a cooking Caribbean read of “Fungii Mama” and a driving “Grantstand.” Clark’s Hammond oozes on a bopping “Spiral,” while Shelby’s brushes whisk away on a nifty “Melody For C.” Howard’s seven strings are nimble and quick as he jumps over “Search For Peace” and the sleek “Hangin’ At Slugs.” Heckman’s baritone is as thick as sorghum on a relaxed “Pannonica” and melds with Alden to perfection on “Autumn in New York” like a French sauce over a pork chop. This team brings home the bacon on a delightful session.”
“Following up the critically acclaimed release Born To Be Blue, Steve Heckman continues his old school riff on some classics and one stellar original with Search for Peace. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it could be the alternate title as Heckman brings back the band that helped catapult his previous release which remained on the JazzWeek chart for 12 weeks and garnered national a spot in the top 20 in national jazz radio air play. A household name he is not but with a sound that embraces the harmonic happy place between John Coltrane and Hank Mobley, one would be hard pressed to find a better instrumentalist.
Some classics are reinvented including the vibrant Blue Mitchell tune “Funji Mama” where the call and response between Heckman and guitarist Howard Alden is the prime example of what the straight ahead blowing session is all about. “Funji Mama” bookends well with the Grant Green smoker “Grantstand.” The classic McCoy Tyner composition and title track “Search for Peace” is an introspective and somewhat melancholy look at just where Heckman’s strengths take over with an unmatched lyrical sense of purpose. Other compositions are from John Coltrane, Sonny Clark and Vernon Duke but the tunes are far from the classic greatest hits approach most artists would take in banging out a quick recording. Steve Heckman goes for some deep catalog material for a more eclectic approach that will have the hard core fan thrilled and peak the interest of those just getting started. The original minor blues with a groove you can use is the original “Hangin’ at Slug’s” which reaffirms that Heckman is far from a one trick pony. Heckman also includes some masterful baritone work adding some rich color and texture to a release already set on perfection.
Search for Peace is a rock solid old school session with flair and a smoldering swing. Criticism? Too short! The musical co-conspirator are on point and the rhythm section is A list all the way.”
“STEVE HECKMAN QUINTET/Search for Peace: Jonesing for some classic Blue Note? Sax man Heckman rounds up the gang from his last smashing blowing session for round two, this time with heavy focus on compositions from Blue Note All Stars from their primes. Kicking it off with a Blue Mitchell composition that sounds like he was meeting up with Sonny Rollins in St. Thomas, the festivities flow in high gear from there—particularly powered by Matt Clark’s non-stop B3. Tasty stuff throughout, the straight ahead jazzbo should find hard to resist, this is the real deal. A winner throughout that’s typical of the gems the major labels just don’t get anymore.”
Steve Heckman Quintet: Search for Peace
“Saxophonist Steve Heckman has been dishing up rock solid mainstream jazz in the quartet and quintet settings since 2003’s For John (World City Music), a tribute disc to the legendary saxophonist John Coltrane. That debut and his two subsequent offerings, Live at Yoshi’s (World City Music, 2005) and Born to Be Blue (Jazzed Media, 2013), held in common Matt Clark in the piano chair. This time around, with Search For Peace, Heckman once again employs Clark, with the keyboard man switching to Hammond B-3 organ.
The B-3 takes the group sound off from the mainstream route into the soulful, funky highway, beginning with Blue Mitchell’s bouncy calypso, “Fungii Mama.” Heckman sounds like Sonny Rollins, on one of the jazz icons mellower nights; the organ serves as a breeze through Caribbean palm fronds, and guitarist Howard Allen slips a tangy rum punch into the mix with his piquant single notes.
The group nods to the classic organ combo sound with guitarist Grant Green’s “Grantstand,” moving the vibe up out of the tropics into the midwest urban milieu, and pianist McCoy Tyner’s “Search For Peace” finds Heckman in a contemplative mood, displaying a beautiful Ben Webster- like tone. Thelonious Monk’s “Pannonica” features Heckman’s reverent treatment of the melody riding on a cool organ cushion, and pianist Randy Weston’s “Hi-Fly,” with Heckman on baritone sax, brings in a danceable, African groove.
A spirited take on Coltrane’s “Spiral” closes the disc, a outstanding wrap-up from a saxophonist who respects the legends, and serves up his own vibrant take on their artistry.”
Steve Heckman Quintet: Search for Peace
“Steve Heckman says he was inspired to play the tenor saxophone after hearing John Coltrane, especially Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Luckily, Heckman did not follow his mentor completely off the deep end but remained instead true to his bop-bred roots while developing a singular voice of his own on the tenor. On Search for Peace (a title Coltrane would no doubt have endorsed), San Francisco-based Heckman’s fourth album as leader, Trane’s impact is never far away but has been tempered by Heckman’s experience and exposure to a number of other exemplars including (but not limited to) Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, Michael Brecker, Sonny Stitt, Hank Mobley, Jerry Bergonzi and George Coleman. While there are times when Heckman sounds a bit like each of them, at the end of the day he sounds like Steve Heckman, which, as it turns out, is the nicest compliment that could be paid (as Pharoah Sanders once said of Heckman, “This cat can play!”)
Yes, he can. And on Search for Peace Heckman is surrounded by others who can do the same: guitarist Howard Alden, organist Matt Clark, bassist Marcus Shelby and drummer Akira Tana. This is an excellent quintet whose members are perceptive soloists as well as congenial teammates. That helps make life easy for Heckman whose muscular tenor sets the tone on seven of nine tracks (he switches to baritone on Randy Weston’s buoyant “Hi-Fly” and the haunting ballad “Autumn in New York”). On baritone, Heckman blends the full-throated sound of a Cecil Payne or Nick Brignola with the nimble phrasing of a Pepper Adams, Gary Smulyan or Ronnie Cuber.
The session opens with Blue Mitchell’s sunny calypso “Fungii Mama” and closes with Coltrane’s cleverly designed “Spiral.” Also on the menu are guitarist Grant Green’s emphatic “Grantstand,” McCoy Tyner’s pensive “Search for Peace,” Monk’s quirky “Pannonica,” Sonny Clark’s linear “Melody for C” and a fast-paced Heckman original, “Hangin’ at Slug’s.” Alden solos astutely on most tracks, as does Clark, while Shelby and Tana provide a spacious comfort zone in which Heckman is able to roam freely and achieve his purpose. That purpose, of course, is to produce a sharp and engaging album, which is precisely the upshot of Search for Peace.”
“Steve Heckman Quintet, Search for Peace (Jazzed Media). If you remember Prestige’s soul-jazz sound of the 1960s, you’ll be swept away by this one. Bossy saxophonist Steve Heckman is framed by Howard Alden on guitar, Matt Clark on the organ, Marcus Shelby on bass and Akira Tana on drums. All of the ’60s pump-and-drive is here, with take-charge Heckman flying smoothly on uptempo numbers like Grantstand and delivering plenty of heart on ballads like Autumn in New York.”
“Steve Heckman again plays that full rich tenor sax in his latest outing, a CD boasting notes and tones so fat and golden you can practically pick them out of the air like ripe apples, the sort of sensuous pre-Raphaelite atmospherics that issued from Dexter Gordon, earning that latter cat his nickname: The Sound (listen particularly to slabs like Dex’s Ballads). Search for Peace is in fact a return back through decades to a time when this kind of classy gig was establishing itself as a main force. Guitarist Howard Alden, however, tends to go a good deal more bop, and this pulls Heckman up from the rain slick streets into night skies where he cavorts like an patrolling owl who just got ahold of the expresso left on outdoor tables by cafe patrons who decided to amble off, seeking conversation and companionship.
Then Matt Clark and his B-3 call back up from the boulevard, echoing the convoluted lines that tempted the sax player to play Icarus, taking him back down to cobblestones and water grates whence Steve dances about until the streetlights go dim and it’s time for home and rest. You can, trust me on this, hear all of that in the Quintet’s version of Monk’s Pannonica, and a good deal more than that throughout Search for Peace. Marcus Shelby (bass) and Akira Tana (drums) keep a calm, cool, and collected rhythm section going, lively enough as the pulse and backbeat but understated and supportive while the three front instruments hold sway.
Heckman’s own Hangin’ at Slug’s is one of the more swingingly fluid tracks, the longest of the pack, infectious. Plenty of room is given for the foreground trio to solo in every song, trading off licks in succession, and Spiral returns the sax player more to the Barbieri sounds heard last time out (again: sans Gato’s strident side) in 2013’s Born to be Blue. The band ducked into the famed Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, Calif., for this outing, so the documentation is both smoky and crystalline simultaneously. If you’re looking for ECM or Japo, forget it, this is far more Blue Note than anything else and dedicated to preservation rather than future trending. At this point in time, the task is going both ways (mainly, I think, because something big is fairly soon to happen in music, something unexpected, and everyone’s preparing for it), so thank God those who’ve undertaken either duty are blessed with the acumen to do so with aplomb and finesse.”
Tenor saxophonist Steve Heckman’s name was new to me.
“His latest CD – Search for Peace – which was recently released on Graham Carter’s JazzedMedia [JM 1069] label thus fell into the category of a pleasant Jazz surprise, the kind that revolves around hearing a musician for the first time and knowing that you’ve found a new Jazz “voice,” one that helps you appreciate the music in a new way.
What’s not to like about Search for Peace?
Great musicians, each of whom has an expressive sound on their respective instrument, a great selection of Jazz standards on which they perform terrific solos and music that is so well conceived and constructed that it creates in the listener a sense of satisfaction that comes from hearing Jazz played with intensity and a pulsating swing.
Steve introduces each of the musicians on the CD in the following insert notes to the recording and also gives a little background on why he chose each of the tunes that collectively represent one of the finest straight-ahead Jazz dates that I’ve heard in a long-time.”
Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute
Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute
Steve Heckman, tenor & soprano sax; Grant Levin, piano; Eric Markowitz, bass; Smith Dobson V, drums
“Saxophonist and Bay Area resident Steve Heckman first discovered John Coltrane at age 15. He listened to A Love Supreme in its entirety every day after school during his 11th and 12th grade years. Heckman’s debut album, With John in Mind (Lifeforce Jazz, 2003), paid tribute to Coltrane, as does his most recent release, a live recording from October 2013. Featuring compositions that Coltrane recorded from 1961 through 1965 (as well as “Reverend King”, from John and Alice Coltrane’s 1968 Cosmic Music), Legacy showcases Heckman’s assured playing and a sympatico rhythm section. The quartet’s version of “26-2” opens with a fervent drive, and Heckman’s ballad playing (on “It’s Easy to Remember”) and soprano work (on “The Promise”) stand out during this well-received concert date recorded at the Hillside Club in Berkeley, California. As a whole, the album serves as both a thoughtful nod to Coltrane and a companion album to With John in Mind. That Heckman chose to conclude Legacy with a keen interpretation of “Resolution” from A Love Supreme brings the narrative full circle and the bandleader’s inspiration back to its source.”
-Yoshi Cato, Downbeat, January 2017, 3 ½ stars
“Whenever words such as A Coltrane Tribute adorn the front cover of an album, one question that inevitably brings to mind is, which John Coltrane? Trane, after all was never one to stand still, or as the saying goes, to rest on his laurels (truth be told, he hardly ever rested at all, choosing instead to use almost every waking hour to pursue his spiritual muse). Saxophonist Steve Heckman, a long-time admirer of Coltrane, makes no apologies for loving “his sound, his harmonic approach, and the spiritual feeling of his music”—which is why he has devoted his fifth recording to honoring the legacy of one of the jazz world’s legendary figures…The choice of material is fairly plain-spoken as well, embracing composition from Coltrane’s primal phase (“26-2”, “Fifth House”), three fast-moving modal works (“Resolution”, “Impressions”, “The Promise”) and a trio of more “spiritual” themes (“Dear Lord”, “Wise One”, “Reverend King”). They are amplified by the standard “It’s Easy to Remember” and Heckman’s delightful salute to Coltrane, “The Legacy.” Everything was recorded live at the Hillside Club in Berkeley, CA, on October 18, 2013, with Heckman supported by an exemplary rhythm section: pianist Grant Levin, bassist Eric Markowitz, and drummer Smith Dobson V, each of whom also possesses a strong and persuasive solo voice. In his notes, Heckman writes that some arbitrators say he has claimed to be the “next” Coltrane, while others have criticized him for failing to live up to that profession. For his part, Heckman says he has never intended to replace Trane, only to honor him and his legacy. Be that as it may, when it comes to tone and technique, Heckman isn’t far removed from his illustrious role model, and there is quite a bit of “early” Coltrane in his vocabulary and phrasing. This is especially apparent on the faster numbers, where Heckman leans toward Trane’s formative years with the Miles Davis quintet and his own small groups. What is equally clear is that Heckman and his colleagues are there to honor Coltrane, not to supplant him or in any way besmirch his peerless reputation. It’s a warm and generous tribute that stands firmly on its own, thanks to Heckman and his dexterous teammates.”
–Jack Bowers, All About Jazz, August 11, 2016, 4 Stars
“Saxophonist Steve Heckman has spent a good deal of his career walking in the footsteps of saxophone giant John Coltrane, on CD offerings such as Search for Peace (Jazzed Media, 2014) and With John in Mind (World City Music, 2003). With that in mind, nobody has ever—and almost certainly never will—match ‘Trane in his ability to infuse his spiritual side into his music; or to play with half the Coltrane-ian freedom or fervor. To his credit, Heckman doesn’t try. He, with his first-rate quartet, dive into the Coltrane songbook with inspiration—sounding like they’re having a good time doing it—and an idiosyncratic relish for the music they are making. The title, Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute says it all. Most of the tunes on this lively live set will be familiar to Coltrane fans, taken from the period after the saxophonist’s Prestige Records stint, and before his scorching, wild-eyed freedom era, a time many consider Coltrane’s finest. “26-2” opens the set, sounding light-hearted and spritely, before shifting into a pedal-to-the-metal propulsion of “Impressions,” that leads into “Easy to Remember”, the lone standard here, from Coltrane’s Ballads (Impulse Records, 1963). Heckman contributes one of his own tunes, “Legacy”, sounding like something that could have fit in on any of Coltrane’s mid-60s sets, with pianist Grant Levin sitting in the chair where McCoy Tyner once sat, sounding quite Tyner-ish. Coltrane’s spiritual side is explored with “Dear Lord” and “Wise One”, the latter from one of Coltrane’s under-rated albums, Crescent (impulse records, 1964). Heckman and his group treat the sound with reverence and inspiration.”
-Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz, November 13, 2016, 3 ½ Stars
“Saxophonist Steve Heckman performed a concert in October 2013 where he delivers a rich tribute to the legendary John Coltrane. He plays both tenor and soprano, with the flexible team of Grant Levin/piano, Eric Markowitz/bass, and Smith Dobson V/drums, and covers almost every stage of Coltrane’s career except the last atonal phase. Heckman’s selection of material is impeccable…from the bopping “26-2” to the more modal “The Promise.” Heckman’s tone on tenor is similar to the sax giant, but his delivery has more of a gentlemanly quality, so there is more swing to “Resolution” and more of a bopping dig on “Impressions.” Markowitz and Dobson are featured as Heckman goes lower register on “Fifth House” while Levin’s rubato on “Wise One” and “Dear Lord” are lushly contemplative. More light than heat on this glowing tip of the hat.”
-George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly, October 27, 2016
“Coltrane is one of my favorite jazz artists and Steve Heckman has performed a heartfelt tribute to the master, daring to record it in ‘live performance’ at the Hillside Club in Berkeley, CA. When I say ‘dare’ I mean it as a great compliment. So many artists these days go into the studio and lay down tracks, then use technology to fix things. Heckman shows his listening audience that he is up for the task at hand and needs no technology to enhance this recording. He does it ‘old school.’ Walks up to the microphone and plays music from his heart, using his own unique technique and expression. Heckman is well supported by grant Levin on piano, Smith Dobson V on drums, and Eric Markowitz on bass. I appreciated, enjoyed, and respected the group’s ability and tenacity to tackle Coltrane’s astonishing legacy. This is an hour-long concert that brought me pure bliss and reminded me of the amazing talent and awesome body of work that John Coltrane left us to enjoy. It’s Heckman’s fifth CD as a leader. All 8 songs on this project are Coltrane compositions, with the exception of Rogers & Hart’s “It’s Easy to Remember” from Trane’s 1963 Ballads album… one of my favorite cuts on [Steve’s] album) [and] the title tune, “Legacy” …composed by Heckman himself. It’s well-written and well-played, just like all the cuts on this live production.”
–Dee Dee McNeil, Musicalmemoirs
“Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute” hit #33 on the Jazz Week Chart (top 50 jazz tunes in U.S./Canada airplay), and #14 on the Roots Music Report (topic 50 jazz/blues/roots music). It was a favorite, particularly on KCSM (San Mateo, CA) as well as on KJAZZ-88.1 FM, (Long Beach, CA). It was also on the “Highly Recommended” list of jazz critic Andrew Gilbert, writing for the San Jose Mercury News.
Some Other Time/Slow Café
Some Other Time/Slow Café
Steve Heckman, tenor & soprano sax, flute; Matt Clark, piano
“This duo…weave their talents around the music like homespun sweaters. Their music is warm and comfortable; unobtrusive, yet culturally opulent.”
-Dee Dee McNeil, Musicalmemoirs’ Blog
“This is pure beauty!”
–Dick Metcalf, Improvijazzation Nation
“These two exceptional musicians…have been musical partners in different settings for many years, but this is the first time that they undertook to perform in that most demanding of jazz formats, as a duo. The empathy between Heckman and Clark is palpable throughout the recording. These are two players well matched in intellect, technique and spirit, and it is a joy to listen to them.”
–Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz
“You can’t argue with class & style…this sax-piano duo has all they need to make a big sound right at their command. Filling in all the white space …with a boatload of joyous noise… the verve they bring … will grab your attention and keep it. Tasty stuff like the kind they used to make, this pair’s fifth go round is more than the charm. Well done throughout.”
-Chris Spector, Midwest Record
“This is a great CD, with an excellent choice of material made up of lesser known standards plus 4 originals, 3 by Heckman and 1 by Clark. It says a lot about your writing ability when your own originals can blend with proven standards and not stand out in a bad way, but such is the case, especially with Heckman, whose originals are often the highlight on this album. My only prior experience with Steve’s playing was hearing his previous Coltrane tribute. Possibly it had to do with the pressure of paying tribute to Coltrane, but Steve sounds so much more relaxed and fluid on this new album, not that there was anything wrong with his earnest take on Coltrane classics, but “Some Other Time/Slow Café” shows more variety and personal approaches than what was heard on his previous effort…Two Heckman originals stand out, “Sheila’s Sunday Song’ on which Steve shows that he has a nice full tone on the flute, and the soulful R&B/pop of “Slow Café”. ..this is a very unpretentious and warm session from two guys who really click… The CD cover works well too, instead of the expected urban jazz scene, you get what looks like a somewhat surreal warm quiet café in a rural winter landscape, it fits the music perfectly.”
“Steve Heckman and Matt Clark are a winning combination. Having had a long association, even performing just as a duo they are swinging throughout. As always, Steve is sounding great, with consistently beautiful tenor, soprano, and flute playing; I can hear his true essence come through on this recording…with a wonderful flow of ideas from both Steve as well as the ever-brilliant Matt Clark. This is a classic, evergreen album that should be played for a long time to come. I’m so glad Steve chose to release these tracks—they are just exquisite.”
-Chris Cortez, KCSM, San Mateo, CA
“Steve is an ‘Iron Man’ who just keeps playing and putting out high-quality albums, and never stops.”
-Jesse Chuy Varela, Music Director, KCSM, San Mateo, CA
“Heckman’s tenor is rich, warm and palpable, and Clark is a perfect partner in going from stride to bop moods with aplomb. The team is joyful on Heckman’s “Admiring-Lee”…while his own “Slow Café” is rich, melodic and personal. Heckman whips out the soprano for a prismatic “Foregone Conclusions” and intimate “The Peacocks”; and on flute is delicate, with Clark’s strident touch on “Sheila’s Sunday Song.” Approachable and accessible.”
–George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
“I was unfamiliar with both Steve Heckman and Matt Clark before Steve issued “With John in Mind”, which was my favorite release of 2001. Over the intervening 15 years, I’ve followed them on recordings and in person, sometimes separately, often together. It’s been a long 2 years since Steve first told me about the music which makes up “Some Other Time/Slow Café”, but it’s been well worth the wait. We’re so lucky to have Steve and Matt. So often do I say of the departure for New York City of some musician “the Bay Area’s loss is the Big Apple’s gain.” But with these two New Yorkers, the reverse is certainly the case: the Big Apple’s loss is the Bay Area’s gain.”
–Michael Burman, KCSM, San Mateo, CA
Some Other Time/Slow Café was chosen by Andrew Gilbert of the San Jose Mercury News as one of his favorite CDs by Bay Area jazz artists for 2017 (“Bay Area Jazz Cats Gave Us Some Memorable Music in 2017”, San Jose Mercury News, December 27, 2017).