Part of Roland Hanna's great charm as a pianist is his ability to rearrange jazz standards testafully. On previous albums, his flair for orchestral color, born of a two-handed style that suggests Erroll Garner's influence, has illuminated works by Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Thad Jones, even Alec Wilder.
So it comes as no small disappointment to discover Hanna's talent thoroughly compromised on his latest album, "Gershwin Carmichael Cats." The problem is Don Sebesky's arrangements. His treatment of "Stardust" -- with mechanical rhythms and intrusive instrumentation -- is a shambles. And "Cats" (the theme from the Broadway musical) is similarly burdened by an overly busy and oddly festive orchestration.
Happily, there are brighter moments. Hanna is given more room to breaths on Carmichael's "Skylark," a refreshingly straightforward version cut with Chet Baker and Larry Coryell, and on two Gershwin selections.
But taste, wit and inspiration, the hallmarks of Hanna's style, are in short supply on this release. The real Roland Hanna can be found on any of his other recordings; better yet, go hear him in concert. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM ROLAND HANNA -- Gershwin Carmichael Cats (CTI Records CTI 9008). THE SHOW ROLAND HANNA -- Saturday at 8 at Temple Sinai.