It was in the winter of 2004 that Australian saxophonist Nick Hempton stumbled off a plane at JFK airport in New York, and made his way back into that hotbed of modern jazz- Manhattan. He immediately embarked upon a game of musical "Cull-or-Keep", sizing up the many and abundantly talented rhythm-section players on offer. The goal: to assemble a group of musicians whose talent, experience, originality, and ability to communicate was unequalled, let alone surpassed.
This is how it happened...
The first step was the rekindling of Nick's musical relationship with drummer Dan Aran. The two had performed regularly at informal sessions at Arturo's restaurant in Greenwich Village, and shared a similar musical philosophy. They engaged in a series of late night "band meetings" at a local bar and emerged, heroes of many a well-fought bottle, with a vision and a musical direction.
The drive continued.
The next recruit was Italian-born Double Bassist Marco Panascia. Generously endowed, musically speaking, 'the stand-up cooker' is known for his great big sound, rock-solid time keeping, melodic soloing and innate sense of swing. He slotted into the group effortlessly, both musically and personally, and the driving groove he and Dan set up now form the foundation upon which the band's individual sound is built.
With a powerhouse engine-room now in place, the search began for the fourth and final piece of the puzzle. The guys agreed that what was needed was a pianist with sensitivity and maturity. A foil to their sometimes outlandish exuberance. Yet with the drive and swing to cook when called for. They needed a "Mad Dog". Art Hirahara was the immediate choice, and upon playing together once, all were in agreement. Art was soon onboard and the organisation was complete.
Throughout this time, Nick had been grabbing every spare minute to compose and arrange material specially for this line-up. By the time rehearsals rolled around, he'd amassed a collection of originals and classics tailor-made to the band's exacting requirements.
Musicians, repertoire, rehearsals- all in order. Time to throw the doors open.