I knew Hal Schaefer long before I met him. When I was a kid I loved those wonderful musical films from 20th Century Fox, and Hal made most of those possible. And now, in his 80s, he is in a perfect place: creating the high art of fabulous jazz.
The Volen Center concert highlights more than a generation of creativity. With the fine bassist, Paul Shewchuck (don't miss his bass solo on the album) and the equally terrific Orlando Hernandez on drums (a last-minute stand in, by the way, who had never played with Hal), this mix of musical talent marks a special moment in a long career.
The intellectual center of the concert is “Of Things Gone By,” originally performed for the RCA Victor Jazz Workshop in 1955. This piece demonstrates, without sentimentality, a depth of emotional understanding that is the hallmark of Hal's work. All of the music gives us a perspective that would not exist without Hal's special musical point of view, and he even includes a vocal for “At Long Last Love,” demonstrating for us that this “singing teacher,” as he calls himself for one part of his work, really knows how to phrase a lyric and belt out a tune.
It is rare for anyone in jazz to demonstrate this kind of musical range, and it is even more rare for someone at this point in his musical career to move us with a constantly exciting technique at the piano that belies an age when most of us would be retired. Thank God that Hal has not succumbed to that theory and that we may still be able to introduce him in the near future with the same phrase that Duke Ellington used, "Now you're gonna hear a real piano player!"
--Charles, Bryant, Co-producer