Ken Hatfield continues to defy norms in jazz guitar. First and foremost, he plays a nylon-string classical instrument, keeping alive a sound popularized by Charlie Byrd and also taken up by the likes of Gene Bertoncini, Ralph Towner, Sylvain Luc, and Freddie Bryant. On Phoenix Rising, Hatfield's second full-band disc, he retains the formidable services of saxophonist Billy Drewes and trumpeter Claudio Roditi. The two horn players appear separately, each complementing Hatfield's technically prodigious yet soft-spoken fingerstyle work. Pianist Dom Salvador, while not present on every track, contributes a layer of harmonic fullness and improvisational tension. Bassist Hans Glawischnig, who recorded a beautiful duo disc with Hatfield in 1998 and also appeared on 2000's Dyad, returns with a full-bodied tone and armfuls of rhythmic finesse. Completing the picture is master percussionist Duduka da Fonseca, a crucial link in Hatfield's attempt to blend Brazilian and swing concepts.
The title track, a bright samba, finds the leader throwing in a quote from "Passion Dance" - surely a noteworthy instance of peace between Hatfields and McCoys (sorry, someone had to say it). Following the reflective ballad "Tableau du Souvenir", Drewes makes his first appearance on a colorful jazz waltz titled "The Aleph" (curiously, Adam Rogers has a piece by the same name). Drewes returns for a Getz-like tenor performance on the bossa "For Jeanette", while Roditi makes his entrance on "Meroë", a moderate samba with a positively glimmering outro vamp. Roditi's second feature, the brisk 6/8 "Iberia", involves a smidgen of multi-tracking and a clever shift to swing time during the trumpet solo. Salvador shines on the straight mid-tempo bop of "Yo Es" and the hip, ambitious "Combray", memorable for its snarling bass line. Hatfield offers trio pieces as well - first the minor-key waltz "Retroflexion" and then the closing "Riff for Brother Jack", a parting nod to the spirit of organ jazz and a glimpse of the guitarist's bluesier, more aggressive side.
Track Listing: Phoenix Rising, Tableau du souvenir, The Aleph, Meroe, Retroflexion, Yo
Es, Iberia, For Jeanette, Combray, Riff for Brother Jack
Personnel: Ken Hatfield, guitar; Hans Glawischnig, bass; Duduka da Fonseca,
drums; Claudio Roditi, trumpet/flegelhorn; Dom Salvador, piano; Billy
Drewes, Tenor sax