Album Review: “Past & Present” (Atlantic Groove Society)
In this article I am reviewing a album release (January 8, 2022) by a former colleague, (Los Angeles based) Dutch trumpetist (and composer/arranger) Alexander Hartgers. About Alexander in (very) short: born 1973 in The Netherlands, received his Bachelors of Music in Jazz Studies in 1999 as a cum-laude graduate at Artez Music University in Zwolle, The Netherlands. For more informaton about Alexander do visit his website.
Side notes: I met Alexander during my study time at the Constantijn Huigens Conservatory (Artez). I had founded a Jazz-Hop project (called “High Selected Squad” (HSS), later renamed DJazz .OrgOnite) and during the presentation (first ever gig) of this project Alexander joined in. He was already then a highly skilled musician and lifted the concert with his participation. Guitarist Guy Nikkels – who features on the “Past & Present” album – and I use to play in the same funk band “Funk-A-Tac”, from Deventer, The Netherlands. It’s always a great pleasure to see and hear what old colleagues are “up to”.
About Atlantic Groove Society …
Atlantic Groove Society is a project forefronted by trumpetist Alexander Hartgers and Dutch keyboardist Raymond Kaitjily. The band/project name “Atlantic Groove Society” is a reference to the Atlantic (ocean) – which divides the continents between Alexander (USA) & Ray (Netherlands) – their Groove based compositions and their colleages/friends their Society. For a full line-up of their society visit the project’s website.
What does “Past & Present” sounds like?
The album is a tasteful collection of medium and down tempo tracks, ranging from Jazz-Fusion, to Funk, R&B and a few “smooth” ballads. I am a fan of 70s/80s Jazz-rock and Jazz-Fusion (David Sanborn, Spiro Gyra, Lee Ritenour, Yellowjackets, et cetera), so it is always fun to check out new releases of these Jazz sub-genres.
When listening to “Past & Present” words that popped-up first were “easy going”. That was to be expected, Alexander, Raymond Kaitjily and their “society” are all highly skilled and experienced musicians. Recording their album must have been “a walk in the part”, at least, that is how it sounds. That is partially why I do have”mixed” feeling about this album. Don’t get me wrong, the “average” listener would not share that feeling with me, the album is well played and recorded, has a “classic” 80s/90s sound and fits perfectly well on the shelf with other Jazz-rock/Jazz-Fusion, R&B and “Smooth” releases. But, knowing the talent and skills of Alexander and “his society”, I had expected that they would “challenge” themselves a little more, it almost sounds “too easy going”. But, perhaps that was their intention. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable to listen to the album.
I will write below a little about some of the tracks … and leave the rest up to you to explore on your own …
“Happy go Lucky”
The album starts with a track with a well chosen title … it truly has a happy, easy going vibe to it. One can imagine chilling on a cruise ship at the Atlantic ocean … with a lovely women (or man, what ever you prefer) … I don’t know how many readers of this article remember the TV series “The Love Boat“? Well, this track would have worked well for it’s soundtrack. If I recall correctly, Alexander did play on cruise ships for a while in the beginning of his career, perhaps – but I am speculating here – this track reflects that period (Past) of his life? It was fun to listen to, it triggered some nice memories of my own experiences at cruise ships many years ago.
This is one of the “smooth” tracks on the album. For those who know me personally, I generally am “allergic” to Smooth Jazz music, gives me an “itch” at the most uncomfortable places, but I actually liked this piece. It did not have that “cheesiness” or “droolyness” many Smooth Jazz tracks have nowadays. In sound and style it reminded me a bit of the music by “Sade”. I always like muted trumpet and Alexander sounds well playing it. I also enjoyed the solo “conversation” between Alexander and Raymond Kaitjily (on synth) and that is where the earlier comparison with Sade ends and it becomes a Jazz-Fusion piece. When listening to the groove – and with a little imagination – you could picture yourself riding a Camel calmly through the Sahara towards a lush oasis.
This track is my favorite from this album. It has a R&B-like “feel” to it. The combination of the more transparent and “edgy” sound of Alexander’s muted trumpet creates a nice contrast with the warm, “juicy” Fender Rhodes played byRaymond Kaitjily. Their interaction sounds like a “romantic conversation” between lovers. I also like the electronics rhythmic elements in the background of Alexander’s solo (starting 02:30). To my taste though they could have been a little more prominent in the mix and could have been present in other parts of the track too. Those elements give the track a bit more “modern” sound.