"The Sugar Hill Trio is comprised of Christian Torkewitz on tenor and flute, drummer Austin Walker and either Leon Boykins or Dylan Shamat on bass. Torkewitz, who is originally from Germany but is now based in New York, is the lead voice throughout. The pianoless trio setting, Torkewitz’s sound at times, and his explorative spirit make one think of prime Sonny Rollins throughout parts of The Drive.
The musicians perform six jazz standards from the 1950s and ‘60s, a brief version of Phineas Newborn’s “Theme For Basie” (which they use a closing theme), Oliver Nelson’s “Handles” and three of the saxophonist’s originals. While the trio stretches out, takes chances and pushes themselves, the music on The Drive is an extension of bop rather than avant-garde. Christine Torkewitz is a melodic improviser, building some of his solos off of the themes and coming up with a steady string of rewarding ideas.
The highpoints include “Minority,” “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” and “Like Someone In Love” plus two features for Torkewitz’s flute. The close musical communication between the musicians, Walker’s occasional drum breaks, and the bass interludes all work well. The Drive is easily recommended and available from www.cdbaby.com."
(Scott Yanow -- Los Angeles Jazz Scene)
"Brilliant hard bop-centered jazz. The packaging for this CD describes the Sugar Hill Trio as "a modern day innovative / avant-garde jazz combo who's wide breath of musical repertoire extends and expands popular music from a time once forgotten." However, the music on this particular recording is anything but innovative or avant-garde, but instead focuses primarily on the hard bop style of jazz that emerged and first became popular in the '50's and '60's, performed here with great spirit and exceptional artistry by saxophonist-flutist Christian Torkewitz, drummer Austin Walker, and either Leon Boykins or Dylan Shamat on bass. These are active freelance musicians working out of the Harlem section of New York City (Sugar Hill is an historical district within it), but they are originally from such far-flung places as Cuba, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. What makes this album even more appealing is the thoughtful selection of tunes, including three well-conceived Torkewitz pieces, three choice standards, and five jazz classics from the likes of Gigi Gryce, John Coltrane, Oliver Nelson, Thelonious Monk, and Phineas Newborn, Jr.
Gryce's "Minority" receives an intense reading, with Torkewitz burning absorbingly from the start on tenor. His undulating, rhythmically animated runs are supported by Boykins' walking bass lines and Walker's understated yet tensely airtight currents. Boykins' solo is compelling in terms of both its tonality and phrasing, and tenor and drums trade off seamlessly prior to the reprise and Torkewitz's rousing out chorus. Torkewitz's "Open Circle" recalls the suspended, unfettered feel of the Sonny Rollins Trio, circa 1957 "Live at the Village Vanguard." "Spiral" is from Coltrane's Giant Steps album, and is faithfully recreated here. Torkewitz displays his command on the theme, throaty and expressive, with Boykins and Walker in taut lockstep, and the bassist surprisingly delivers the only solo, succinct and meaningful. Torkewitz interprets his ballad, "Sunbeams," on lilting flute, the melody resembling Monk's "Reflections" to some degree, and becomingly so. Once again, Boykins is the sole improviser, even more briefly on this fleeting 3:08 track.
Coltrane's version of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" is evoked on this occasion, the trio cohesively immersed. Boykins' resounding bass and Walkers' Elvin Jones-like textures propel Torkewitz's magnetic post bop excursion. The bassist's own engaging statement precedes the hearty recap and the saxophonist's tangy out chorus. Torkewitz is back on flute for the dancing theme of Nelson's "The Drive," and his solo is a masterful combination of sparkling technique and swinging eloquence, with Boykins and Walker in tireless up tempo accord. For the ballad "You're My Everything," Torkewitz's tenor assumes a big, old school sound that falls somewhere between Gene Ammons and '50's Sonny Rollins, and his improv is a thematic marvel that weaves an harmonically rich tale. Profound storytelling continues with bassist Shamat's musings.
Torkewitz's "Handles" possesses a sly and wry theme, with an appealing logic that's transferred to Shamat and the composer's solos as well. This is hard bop with distinction, sustained through the flowing tenor and drums exchanges that occupy the remainder of this track. A consuming rendition of Monk's "Ask Me Now" finds Torkewitz channeling Charlie Rouse to some extent, with Shamat walking the line in most complementary fashion (and also providing a meditative evaluation), while Walker injects enhancing rumbles and splashes. The trio's take on "Like Someone in Love" brings to mind once more Mr. Rollins of the '50's, with tenor and drum improvs to die for. Newborn, Jr.'s relaxed, rhythmically intoxicating "Theme for Basie" allows Torkewitz to project his more bluesy side, with swift boppish runs and exclamations, in addition to some nifty unison and give-and-take passages with both Boykins and Walker."
"Based in the Harlem section of NY, the Sugar Hill Trio is made up of four musicians (explanation to follow) rooted in the “hard bop” school of jazz, with a look toward the future. The instrumentation, enjoyed by veteran saxophonists, Sonny Rollins and Lew Tabackin, is not meant for the slight of heart. Without benefit of a chordal instrument to reinforce the harmonic implications of the music, the horn player must be able to not only play melodically and rhythmically, but also make an undeniable case for the harmony as well. Christian Torkewitz meets all of those challenges with ease.
Torkewitz began his musical studies in Cuba, relocating to NYC in 2007 and establishing his own jazz orchestra and chamber project, “Vista,” which showcases his large ensemble compositions. He holds a D.M.A. in performance, composition and education from the Manhattan School of Music.
All the music on the CD, composed and arranged by Torkewitz and Walker, comes from the modern jazz repertory as well as three originals from the saxophonist. Incidentally, the two bassists alternate tracks, thus the name “trio.”
The CD opens with the up-tempo, Minority, by Gigi Gryce. The tune, which alternates between jazz-Latin and straight- ahead swing, gets a good reading with Torkewitz’s sure-fire approach. His sound is bright and pointed, good time and chops to burn. Torkewitz plays through the changes like nobody’s business, playing all over the horn without even breaking a sweat. His lines fall in place like so many ducks in a row. Boykins plays his own solid solo before Torkewitz and Walker trade fours for a couple of choruses, the head, tag and out. Nice way to start the disc.
Two tunes closely associated with the great John Coltrane, Spiral, by Coltrane and The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, by Jerry Brainin and Buddy Bernier get the requisite treatment in homage to the tenor giant. The tempo on the former is up and Torkewitz plays through the changes with ease, playing strong clean lines covering the entire range of the horn. The latter tune is played in the more or less traditional way, Latin to swing, again with the leader showing his ability to navigate through the harmony with aplomb. Nice solo by bassist Boykins, before the return of the theme.
Ask Me Now, one of the great jazz ballads written by Thelonious Monk, is played at a “businessman’s bounce.” Torkewitz plays the melody and the first chorus leading into a nice half chorus solo by Shamat on bass. Torkewitz returns for the bridge and final eight before a short cadenza and the final chord.
One of the most popular jazz standards, Like Someone in Love, by Jimmy Van Heusen, gets an unusual reading in a Latin flavored 7/4. The band plays through the tune making it sound like it was written in seven, and Torkewitz’s solo follows suite. His lines just pour out of the horn, each phrase making perfect musical sense. Walker is next after Torkewitz, soloing in seven (he did not cop-out and play free) before the recap of the melody.
My one reservation with the disc is that the tunes are basically head, solos, head; not much imagination as far as arrangements goes. Having said that, this recording is a good showcase for Torkewitz, and excellent tenor play, worthy of further consideration."
(Billy Kerr -- Saxophone Today)
"The youthful energy of young jazzbos trying to recapture the free jazz groove on classic tunes recorded basically in a pair of sessions---just like the old days. Bristling with vigor, these four cats hit hard and take you right back to the smoky basement club where after hours never ends. Smoky stuff that just drips hipster---in a good way."
(Chris Spector -- Midwestrecord)
“The Sugar Hill Trio consists of Christian Torkewitz on tenor and flute, Austin Walker on drums and either Leon Boykins or Dylan Shamat on bass. Torkewitz has an affinity to the tone of John Coltrane, and uses it well with the looping bass on the driving ‘The Night Has A Thousand Eyes’ and driving ‘Spiral.’ The rhythm team is peppy on the original ‘Handles’ and laconic on ‘Ask Me Now.’ Torkewi[t]z’s flute is moody on his own ‘Sunbeams’ and nimble with the snappy drums on ‘The Drive’ while the whole team bops well on ‘Minority.’ Lots of energy emitted here.”
(George W. Harris -- Jazzweekly.com)
"This trio has talent and ability and has produced an album remarkably rich in tonal and rhythmic variety."
(Roger Farbey -- All About Jazz)
"These musicians fit well together, like a familiar key sliding into a front door lock. Their music feels comfortable, like home."
(Dee Dee McNeil -- Musicalmemoir’s Blog)
"There are four elements that combine in such a way so as to make The Drive […] commendable and these are the musicians who perform on it […] A fifth element makes it especially enjoyable to my ears and that is the music itself."
(Steven Cerra -- Jazzprofiles)
Small ensemble, big sound, terrific satisfaction.
(Grady Harp -- 5 star Amazon Review)
"An album by a trio that knows how to improvise and vary in tone and rhythm."
(Patrick Van de Wiele -- Keysandchords)
Christian Torkewitz: Tenor Saxophone and Flute
Austin Walker: Drums
Leon Boykins & Dylan Shamat: Bass
1. Minority (Gigi Gryce / Totem Music)
2. Open Circle (Christian Torkewitz)
3. Spiral (John Coltrane / Jowcol Music)
4. Sunbeams (Christian Torkewitz)
5. The Night Has A Thousand Eyes (Jerome Brainin / Paramount Music)
6. The Drive (Oliver Nelson / Noslen Music)
7. You're My Everything (Harry Warren / Redwood Music LTD)
8. Handles (Christian Torkewitz)
9. Ask Me Now (Thelonious Monk / Thelonious Music Corp.)
10. Like Someone in Love (Jimmy Van Heusen / Bourne Co. Music Publishers)
11. Theme for Basie (Phineas Newborn, Jr. / Pamela Publishing Company)
Produced by Christian Torkewitz and Austin Walker
Recorded February 18, 2016 and August 31, 2015 at Samurai Hotel, NY
Recorded by David Stoller
Mixed and Mastered by Mike Marciano at Systems Two Recording Studio, Brooklyn
Layout and Design: Layout and Design: Larissa Pickens and Ashley Redican at Float.Design
©2016 goschart Musichttps://store.cdbaby.com/cd/thesugarhilltrio