Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

7

Rick Hannah: Handful Of Strings

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
The guitar is a deceptively simple instrument to play, as any teenager who learns the basic strumming chords, and then tries to go beyond that, in any style, will tell you. It hints at being self-contained, that the player can accompany himself. Contrapuntally however, the piano, which allows two independent hands, dwarfs the guitar, even in the realm of the Classical guitar.

In jazz, the guitar has played the varied roles of being part of the rhythm section (epitomized by Freddie Green with Count Basie) as well as lead instrument supported rhythmically by others (early examples are Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian). Unaccompanied jazz guitar is still a rarity, due mostly to the difficulty in providing harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment while playing the lead. Much has to be done by implication, and success involves blending the two physically contradictory roles.

The acknowledged master of this form is Joe Pass whose series of Virtuoso albums set the bar at seeming impossible height. However, guitarist Rick Hannah takes up the challenge, and with Handful Of Strings, shows us how it is done. Born in Philadelphia, learning his trade in the States and Europe before ultimately settling in Strasbourg, France in 2005, Hannah has put together a set of mostly well-known standards, two original compositions and one overdubbing (Fats Waller's "Handful of Strings"), where he ends up sounding like a stride piano.

Hannah's rather dry tone further exposes him, giving him virtually nothing to hide behind. Technically, Hannah mostly sticks with a pick (rather than pick plus fingers), which makes his chordal interjections strummed. The mix of pure line playing, melody with accompaniment, walking bass and chordal melody playing always varies and what is going to happen next is many times surprising. What the tune is, and where Hannah is in the tune is never is question, although the harmonies can get quite altered.

This is a master at work. "Misty," one of longest tracks, is particularly interesting. The first time through the tune, it is given a rubato melodic fragment/chord treatment, with some lines spinning out between phrases. The second time swings more and so everything is more charged and denser in order to keep the feel of the beat, even when a solo line is played. The last repetition returns to the rubato feel but is more intricate than the opening chorus; simply wonderful.

"Blues in G" is a bit of a surprise with its opening lick, but then Hannah takes the standard blues form and scale far afield at times, without, however, ever losing touch with the blues itself. "Rick's Opus (3)" is played finger style with a lot of finger-on-string sound coming through; it echoes a Classic guitar etude by someone like Fernando Sor. Another surprise tune is Keith Jarrett's "Lucky Southern," which is also played finger style, but is not as overtly contrapuntal as Hannah's original. The difference in the chord fills using thumb and fingers versus a pick is very clear.

The set ends with the barn-burner "Sweet Georgia Brown" which, having a very clear melodic and harmonic structure, allows Hannah to have a lot of fun; it is easy to see his hands flying around the fingerboard.

Handful Of Strings contains much impressive technical playing, but Hannah's prodigious technique always serves the music. Somewhere, Joe Pass is smiling...

Track Listing: It Could Happen To You; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Alice In Wonderland; I'll Remember April; Hymne a l'Amour; Four Brothers; Misty; "Two Handfuls of Strings (Handful of Strings); Rick's Opus (3); Lucky Southern; Blues in G; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Autumn In New York; Put On A Happy Face; Sweet Georgia Brown.

Personnel: Rick Hannah: guitar.

Title: Handful Of Strings | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Best Effort Productions

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Live at Pyatt Hall CD/LP/Track Review Live at Pyatt Hall
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Flying Heart CD/LP/Track Review Flying Heart
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 23, 2018
Read The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow CD/LP/Track Review The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow
by John Sharpe
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Solano Canyon CD/LP/Track Review Solano Canyon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Transparent Water" CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Upbeat And Sweet" CD/LP/Track Review Upbeat And Sweet
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 13, 2017
Read "Happy Song" CD/LP/Track Review Happy Song
by Geno Thackara
Published: October 5, 2017
Read "Trinity One" CD/LP/Track Review Trinity One
by Geannine Reid
Published: May 31, 2017
Read "Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert" CD/LP/Track Review Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 24, 2017
Read "Heaven On Their Minds" CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017