Sir Roland Hanna (he was knighted by the President of Liberia in 1970) recorded this set at the same time (February 1978) as Bird Tracks: Remembering Charlie Parker (Progressive PCD-7011). At the time Progressive Records did not have an outlet in the US and it was initially issued only in Japan, which wasn't such a detriment, as at the time Hanna had a larger following there than in the US. He was a musician in demand all over the world and spent much of his time touring. The set was originally conceived as a collection of Rodgers and Hart tunes, but Hanna talked producer Gus Statiras into adding three Hanna originals. The result is a beautiful CD – nine tracks from the LP (three by Hanna, six by Rodgers and Hart) and four bonus alternate takes. Hanna is ably supported by George Mraz on bass and Ben Riley on drums, his regular group at the time; this is clearly a working group as they have an almost intuitive feeling for what they're doing. Sir Roland, initially influenced by his childhood friend Tommy Flanagan and later by Bud Powell, was in his prime here – he was classically trained and had prodigious technique which is put to good use. The set opens with a Hanna original, Orange Funk, dedicated to O.J. Simpson back when he was still a sports hero; it's a cute number. The Rodger and Hart numbers are well chosen and well played, particularly This Can't Be Love and Thou Swell. Another fine session from Progressive which has been out of print far too long.
Paige Van Vorst | Jazzbeat Newsletter March 2015