Members of the Hasselback family have made noteworthy contributions to the Western New York jazz scene, a fact that made their appearance at the final concert in this year’s Albright-Knox Summer Jazz Series an intriguing one.
Pianist John Hasselback Sr. worked with a number of major league performers (Maynard Ferguson, Cab Calloway, and others) and taught in East Aurora schools.
His son, trombonist John Jr., has played in various groups around Western New York in addition to working in education. Along with Lisa, his talented pianist wife, they’ve topped a number of Western New York jazz polls for their respective instruments.
The youngest John Hasselback (III) is still working on a learning curve, playing trumpet and flugelhorn in addition to studying with the likes of Cyrus Chestnut, Javon Jackson and Jason Moran.
This is the quartet that, along with bassist Wayne Moose and drummer Dan Hull, took the stage on Sunday. The two-keyboard lineup was a bit unusual, but Senior and Lisa took turns providing the melodic underpinnings so that things didn’t get too cluttered.
Material played leaned heavily on the Great American Songbook, with tunes by George Gershwin (“Love Is Here to Stay”), Frank Loesser (“I’ve Never Been In Love Before”), Harry Warren (“Lulu’s Back In Town”), and Jimmy Van Heusen (“Darn That Dream”). Interestingly enough, there were a few eye-openers too, like Wayne Shorter’s “One By One,” a surprisingly straight ahead work from one of the 20th century’s more adventurous jazz musicians.
The overall feel of the concert was one of competence and comfort. It wasn’t the kind of thing that makes exciting memories; there was more of a living room feel to the proceedings. There didn’t appear to be a crisply planned set list, and comprehensive rehearsal time didn’t seem to be a factor, but there were plenty of genteel vocal stylings from the senior Hasselback and the players were in a generally relaxed mood.
The older players have had sterling reputations, and this particular concert will do nothing to detract from that, but there was a spark missing this time. That’s not to say audience members weren’t tapping their feet to the beat, because they were, but the whole thing was more like the musical background one hears in a supper club; it was nice and the energy level was nothing that would interfere with conversation.
Bottom line: OK is OK, but more was possible.