Independent jazz musicians on any level have an extremely difficult time getting heard or recognized. As more and more traditional marketing outlets such as jazz radio and retail stores cease to highlight their style of music, the opportunity to be heard diminishes in more ways than one. But every now and again, there comes an artist who has the ability to overcome the obstacles by succeeding in spite of the obvious negative trends. Saxophonist Bradford Hayes is one such individual who has seemingly risen above the fray in more ways than one. His latest CD entitled ‘Bradford Hayes - The Jazz Life’ pushes the envelope of what good quality contemporary styled straight ahead jazz should be about. In my mind, listening to Bradford is synonymous with artistic impressionism and its finest.
Born in Petersburg, Virginia, Bradford is an accomplished musician and has taught music in Newark, New Jersey for more than 24 years. ‘The Jazz Life’ is the continuation of a journey into jazz that explores the aesthetic quality of America’s only original art form. In fact, Hayes covers a variety of styles on this release, which speaks volumes about his versatility as an artist. What is very apparent across eleven tracks of original and standardized music is the fact that Bradford plays outside the box of contemporary thinking. His approach is cutting-edge jazz and the overall effort is an exciting piece of work. On top of that aspect of appreciation, Hayes’ supporting cast members add gusto to ‘The Jazz Life’ as well.
When listening to Bradford Hayes the immediate impact is the manner in which he attacks your listening palate. The first track entitled "Tunji’s Blues" is not the typical blues oriented song we are used to hearing. The track is an introductory entry that allows each member of the band to have a voice and be heard in an exemplary manner. Each instrument in the sextet rises to an upbeat traditional style of jazz that emanates energy and excitement. On "Bianca’s Dance," a track dedicated to his daughter, Hayes provides a samba underlayment of upbeat Latin tinged rhythms that he augments with a strong sax’ presence that carries the track fluidly. Other renditions on the CD such as "Carolyn" and "My Sons" are dedicated to his family as well, both of which provide expressive insight into Bradford’s ability.
When it comes to craftsmanship, Bradford Hayes can be considered one of jazz’s premier musicians. His grasp of musical qualities such as improvisation and lyrical nuances are impressive enough to keep ‘The Jazz Life’ on an even keel. Hayes’ interpretive view on standards such as Hoagy Carmichael’s "The Nearness of You" and Benny Golson’s "Whisper Not" are not merely track fillers, those songs along with the other nine tunes provide a collective view of The Bradford Hayes Sextet. At the end of the moment, Bradford has pulled together a cornucopia of jazz excitement that is seldom heard nowadays. This CD is a must have gift to any jazz collection.