Andrew Hartman - Compass

Label/Year: Self-produced, 2017

Lineup - Andrew Hartman: guitar; Chris Cheek: tenor and soprano saxophones; Ike Sturm: bass; Zach Harmon: drums.


Formerly based in London and now in New York, Andrew Hartman is a passionate guitarist/composer whose sophomore album, Compass, comes out in May. This work was recorded with a tight quartet whose members include the much-admired saxophonist Chris Cheek, bassist Ike Sturm, and drummer Zach Harmon.
The compositions were written while Hartman was still in London and reflect a period of travels and moves between cities and countries. 

The Heights” opens the album with Hartman uttering a continuous melodic cadence on top of a steady bass-drums tandem. The trio was waiting for Cheek to join them for a well-delineated post-bop drive where guitar and sax mesh up with brightness, purpose, and instinctive intent.
Even with Harmon's active drum chops catching our attention, the unpretentious “Waiting” feels smooth and gentle, making room for Paul Simon’s “America”, the only cover of the record. Tuneful sax melodies and assertive guitar strokes imbued of American folk and jazz idioms help to color a canvas whose origins are rooted in the pop/rock genre.

Using a smart pun, “Chic Korea” brings neither Oriental flavors nor Chick Corea’s moves to the table. It rather spreads easygoing, bluesy vibes in a more swinging approach that ends up in lively trades between Hartman, Cheek, and Harmon, during the final section. 

If Cheek’s improvisational ideas were particularly attractive on “Devices”, Hartman’s guitar gains preponderance on the Eastern-influenced “London Blues”, a meditative multi-cultural celebration that also features Harmon’s extraordinary percussion and Sturm’s intelligible bass solo.

The quartet sets off into intimate balladry on “For Marie Elaine” and then returns to the post-bop mood with “New Day”. The former is a laid-back waltz that features solos by Sturm, Hartman, and Cheek on a lustrous soprano, while the latter, welcoming the same soloists in the opposite order, is a soaring glam that initially moves at a 7/4 tempo.
The journey ends in a crisp pop-jazz ecstasy with the absorbing “Family Tree”.

Andrew Hartman boasts musical qualities that can speak louder if he gets more exposure out there. His peers provided him solid ground, helping him stretching his sound and sharp his vision. Compass is a step forward toward the visibility and recognition that his music claims.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
04 – Devices ► 06 – London Blues ► 10 – Family Tree