Jon Hamar: Hymn (2013)
Seattle bassist Jon Hamar's third release as a leader is an intimate and collaborative effort. The textured harmonies with hints of western Classical influences that are heard on his prior CDs have further matured on Hymn, thanks, in no small part, to his choice of sidemen.
Reed multi-instrumentalist Todd DelGiudice (a past collaborator who sticks to alto throughout this record) takes an approach inspired by saxophonist Charlie Parker on the whimsical "The Big Fat Hen" and his modal improvisations on the solemn title track. Elsewhere, on "Falling Grace," he weaves elegiac tones over Hamar's lyrical bass as the leader handles his burly axe with the ease and facility of a serenading guitar.
Hamar showcases his baroque-inspired sound with his arco playing on "Isfahan." His cello-like agility casts pianist Billy Strayhorn's classic in a new light as he embellishes the melody over prolific pianist Geoffrey Keezer's rhythmic flourishes.
Keezer's versatility is apparent as he pushes the boundaries of traditional blues with his angular solo on "Blues for JP" and his impressionistic and organic pianism on the somber "Almibarado."
This Hamar original not only highlights the leader's compositional skills but is also one of the perfect examples of the camaraderie among the trio. The melancholic ballad features piano's single notes chiming like church bells at dusk. Hamar's deep and sinewy chords enhance the crepuscular mood as DelGiudice sings his anguished song like a desolate troubadour.
Ensemble playing also leads to stimulating group extemporizations as on the vaguely Asian "Tea." The intelligent three-way conversation starts hesitantly but builds an intricate musical structure as the instruments trade smart and crisp phrases.
Occasionally, lighter and less engaging moments mar this otherwise appealing disc. The fusion-esque "Norman" does feature DelGiudre's lilting saxophone but lacks the improvisational rigor of the other tunes, while despite the group's musicianship, the laidback "December" tends to fade into the background.
Despite a few rough spots, this highly enjoyable work is an intriguing step in Hamar's musical evolution and continues to delight even after several spins.
Track Listing: Tea; Blues For J.P.; Falling Grace; Hymn; The Big Fat Hen; Familiar Friend; Giant Steps / It Could Happen To You; Almibarado; Isfahan; Norman; December; Comes Love.
Personnel: Jon Hamer: bass; Todd DelGiudice: alto saxophone; Geoffrey Keezer: keyboards