Noah Haidu: Standards II

The pianist leads a trio including the 83-year-old Billy Hart, whose drums deliver as much melodic accompaniment as they do rhythmic drive


Noah Haidu’s first volume of standards – released last year – set a high bar, the basic piano trio with two different bassists aided by a saxophonist on four tracks. This time round, Haidu has slimmed down the personnel to just a basic trio, with only bassist Buster Williams remaining from before. The newcomer is drummer Billy Hart, who belies his age (83) with a fine percussive display that delivers as much melodic accompaniment as it does rhythmic drive.

Over The Rainbow proceeds at a stately pace, the familiar tune stretched almost to breaking point over Williams’s fractured arco lines. It’s a reverential approach that pays dividends here and elsewhere, for Haidu is a considered rather than a demonstrative pianist, gently feeling his way into a tune rather than imposing his presence too quickly. Someone To Watch Over Me is also glacial in speed, as befits the longing wish of the title, and is treated with gentle care by all three musicians.

Freddie Hubbard’s Up Jumped Spring ups the pace a bit, gaining in intensity and momentum as it does, but the collective touch remains light, as ever. Pedro Flores’ rarely heard Obsesión comes across as a tad lightweight, its pleasing melody drifting along without leaving much trace, in contrast to the more ingenious Days Of Wine And Roses. After You’ve Gone proceeds in high-stepping celebratory style, with Haidu at his most animated. Duke Ellington’s I Got It Bad ends proceedings in a suitably melancholic style, Williams delivering a poignant, tour de force solo.

Throughout, the group interplay is excellent, their collective improvisations exemplary, Williams and Hart meshing particularly well together. In a way, this might well be considered a set of standard standards, all played carefully and correctly and lovingly. But it is also a set that thoroughly explores the nuances and intricacies of each piece, and in so doing raises the bar even higher for Haidu and his trio. It is all the more welcome for that.

Over The Rainbow; Someone To Watch Over Me; Up Jumped Spring; Obsesión; Days Of Wine And Roses; After You’ve Gone; I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) (60.36)
Haidu (p); Buster Williams (b); Billy Hart (d). Van Gelder Studios, New Jersey, 7 October 2023.
Sunnyside Records SSC 1739