Softly As in a Morning Sunrise
The Big Balloon
What a Difference a Day Made
Lee Rides Again
Where Is Linda Now?
All God's Chillun Got Rhythm
A Fond Farewell
My Funny Valentine
Larry Ham (piano) Lee Hudson (bass) Tom Melito
rec. Brooklyn, New York 2006
Larry Ham is a fine mainstream
pianist based in New York. He began his professional
over twenty years ago in Lionel Hampton’s
band and later joined the Illinois Jacquet
Big Band where he remained for five years.
A quick look at online biographies discloses
that he’s currently pianist in the Earl May
Quartet, pianist with alto saxophonist Dave
Glasser, and accompanist for vocalist Catherine
Russell. Versed as he is in the subtle art
of big band submersion, the smaller settings
clearly offer many more opportunities for
self-expression. Working with a singer can
be a tricky business but by all accounts Ham
is expert at it. In the trio and solo settings
afforded by this latest – but unnumbered –
disc we can hear him stretch out even further.
Ham is particularly good
at reharmonising tunes, subtly shifting their
harmonic centre of gravity in ways that are
both playful and instructive. He does it in
the very first tune Softly As in a Morning
Sunrise and elsewhere makes hay with Latin
American rhythms. His playing is literate
and articulate and at times displays definite
vestiges of classical training – try What
a Difference a Day Made.
Lee Rides Again is
a Ham original, written for his bass player
Lee Hudson, and is a veritable swinger. But
Where Is Linda Now? - written for a
departed friend – is a touching and thoughtful
elegy; it has an almost Russian tristesse
without ever sinking into the mawkish regions.
My Funny Valentine has very attractive
harmonies and a certain degree of pensiveness
in Ham’s soloing. He’s well supported by Hudson
and Tom Melito – but I found the former’s
bass playing over-recorded to distraction.
Perhaps this is the kind
of disc sold at gigs – you might want to contact
Ham on his website to find out. He’s a fine
player – he’d have slotted in to Buck Clayton’s
band very nicely indeed.