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H: Hokus Fokus

Jack Bowers By

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Too much Hokus, not enough Fokus. It seems the younger generation has taken a singularly soft and melodious instrument, namely the guitar, and turned it into a coarse and irritating noisemaker. Where are Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow and Billy Bauer when we need them? (Well, we already know the answer to that.)

To be fair, there are moments when Swedish guitarist Håkan Goohde lives up to his name, but there aren't enough of them to earn this reviewer's praise or endorsement. It's not until track three on Hokus Fokus that one hears anything of more than passing interest, and even then there's not much, melodically speaking, by which to set a compass. Goohde saves the best for last, closing with the most enticing number on the album, the swinging, straight-ahead "Am I, showing, if nothing else, that he can play in the pocket when he chooses to.

That's one of four fairly respectable charts (among nine), the others being "Obdurodon, "Hatam and "Commercial. The rest might be quite suitable for a warmup session in one's basement, but as elements in a jazz album they are less than persuasive. I presume that Goohde wrote everything, and there's no way to know precisely how much was improvised, how much mapped out in advance, but as the rhythm section is invariably quick and responsive (and quite capable), the guess is that the program was well-rehearsed.

Perhaps time and fashion have passed me by, but I'd much prefer to hear the guitar played as it once was, with an abundance of warmth and lyricism, as opposed to dissonance and ostentation. Håkan Goohde shows on a number of occasions that he can make the guitar sing, and when he does, the album is highly enjoyable. But in the end that's not enough to recommend it, nor is the skimpy 38:24 playing time.


Track Listing: The Believers; Distance; Obdurodon; Dubbelt s

Personnel: H

Title: Hokus Fokus | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Gason Jazz

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