Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jon Hamar: Hymn

Origin Arts
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Hymn

Bassist Jon Hamar is another of the many excellent jazz artists based in the Seattle area. The Washington state native began to play the acoustic bass as an 11-year-old, and added the electric instrument a year later. He earned a bachelor’s degree in classical double bass performance from Eastern Washington University, followed by a master’s degree in jazz and contemporary media from Eastman University. 

Hamar moved to Seattle in 2001, where he became a fixture in the thriving jazz scene.

In addition to his involvement with many Pacific Northwest orchestras and combos, he teaches at several state universities and colleges; his prowess as an instructor is best indicated by the fact that many of his former students have been accepted by the prestigious Eastman School Of Music for advanced studies.

The trio used in this album is quite unusual: Hamar is the bassist; Geoffrey Keezer plays piano and Rhodes; and Todd DelGiudice is on alto sax. That combination, initially used at a jazz festival, intrigued Hamar; he recalls thinking, “This could work out, if everybody has a similar time concept”.  He discussed the idea with bassist John Patitucci, who opined that the choice of pianist would be crucial; Keezer’s name headed his list of potential candidates. 

The more Hamar thought about it, the more excited he got; he composed several trial tunes for that instrumental grouping, then contacted Keezer, who reacted positively. Hamar already was familiar with DelGiudice, who had worked with the likes of Woody Herman, Maria Schneider and Ray Charles. As a result, as Sherlock Holmes would have put it, the game was afoot.
Half of the dozen tracks in this album are Hamar compositions, the rest are arrangements of tunes written by other artists. Chinese pianist Xia Jia, whom Hamar met at Eastman, wrote “Tea”; and Steve Swallow’s “Falling Grace” is a jazz standard, as are Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” Jimmy Van Huesen’s “It Could Happen to You” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan.” The styles range from ballads, tone poems and traditional melodies to grooving tunes such as “The Big Fat Hen.” The common thread is the scintillating performance provided by the trio members. 

Hamar was right: Everything did work out, and the result is some of the most tasty jazz I’ve hear in years.

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