Straight, a Head  

Straight, a Head

Straight, a Head

Dave Hartl Quartet: Straight, A Head

After the immense complexity of the "Foreign Growth" CD I felt the need to do something a lot more spontaneous and off the cuff. In 1996 I had the chance come up through a faculty grant and an offer to use the MARS studio at the University of the Arts to record a session. I responded by writing eight tunes in a four-week period, rehearsing lightly with some real pros (Ron Kerber on sax, Craig Thomas on bass, and Mark Graham on drums), playing these tunes once live in public at Chris's Jazz Cafe in Philadelphia, and then recording them live with no more than two takes to get them right. No synths, no overdubs, just four guys stretching on some new tunes. It was truly straight ahead.

Click here for a review of this CD from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and click here for a review from the Republic of Armenia.


Scrupulectomy

**Click to hear**

This tune was written to use a tiny little melodic motif and shift it around a hundred different ways harmonically. Don't know why I named it Scrupulectomy other than we played these tunes on the CD in a jazz club in Center City filled with lawyers, bankers, and politicos winding down from their business day filled with morally questionable choices; announcing the tune I could always dedicate it to them and they took it as a compliment. Go figure.

Click here for a lead sheet to this tune.

Apocalypso

**Click to hear**

Since naming and recording this it seems like there's been a bunch of variations on the title's pun, including Mel Gibson's movie. And it's not really a calypso, but it is a difficult little Latin tune in 3 with a schizophrenic form. I originally heard this in my head as I was showering, didn't have a chance to write it down, and had to reconstruct it the next day by purposefully re-doing everything I had done the first day. While in the shower, it came back to me. The piano solo is in a odd mode, a kind of Ab #4 #5 thing that lays out on the piano in a neat pattern that can be played like a set of finger drums, which is how I played it.

Modoru

**Click to hear**

Modoru is Japanese for the verb "to return". This tune came to me at about 25,000 feet over Cape Canaveral as I flew home from a gig in Miami Beach. I must have felt peaceful that day...

Under Scrutiny

**Click to hear**

Written at a time when I was starting to feel a little queasy about the stuff our country was involved in, from the Iran Contra bit to Iraq One. Little did I know we were just getting started! This ominous little ditty is linked in my mind to a lot of unsettling things that have the initials US: Under Scrutiny, Unwanted Science, Uncle Sam, Ugly Symptoms, etc. and originally was going to be called just US, but I was afraid people would misinterpret. It's built on a dominant diminished scale with a release, which represents what I hope we eventually arrive at in our history. (No, I don't really know where these songs come from , I can only report what was going on when they came.)

Never the 'Trane Shall Meet

**Click to hear**

I was too young to hear Coltrane play live, but I've listened to many months worth of his music over the last decades. In this tune I shamelessly steal his 3-tonic idea and play a tune using it just to do it.

Sneakers

**Click to hear**

Here's my "Rhythm" changes tune. Except the harmonic rhythm is stretched out to double the length. And there's a lot of chromatic shifting. And the main idea was the actual rhythm of the melody and chords. Months after recording it I heard Monk's "Evidence" for the first time and was struck by the similarity in ideas, but I swear I wrote this without knowing about Monk's tune. This was tough to get a flawless performance and Mark Graham threw us ALL for a loop in the last chorus. The Joker. He never had the slightest doubt what he was doing, but it caught us all by surprise but we went with it. Yeah Ron!

Too Late to Sleep

**Click to hear**

After all the raging, how about a nice ballad? The piano opening was improvised and Ron plays real pretty to make this one work.

Meatland

**Click to hear**

The first phrase of this came to me at a stoplight. There was a huge truck ahead of me filled with live pigs dropping things almost on my hood. I don't blame the pigs, they were being taken to their doom to be made into sausages that day and I would be doing the same. You see, I live in Meatland. There's about 20 slaughterhouses, meat rendering, and animal processing plants within 5 miles of my house, so we have a constant procession of The Doomed in our midst. Life is cheap in Meatland.


Note that the CD also contains complete alternate takes of "Scrupulectomy" and "Meatland". They were equally as good as the others and I hated to throw them out, so they're here as bonus tracks.

Updated December 9, 2016.