150

Ken Hatfield: String Theory

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
Ken Hatfield: String Theory Ken Hatfield is an extremely complex and multifaceted individual, a philosopher-king, a musically omnivorous hillbilly—and yes, his last name comes from those Hatfields. The music on String Theory fully displays where Hatfield has been in his chronological and musical life. He emphatically refuses to be pinned down by any label, even an amorphous one like "jazz." He's equally at home in the worlds of classical guitar, Brazilian jazz, the blues and straight-ahead jazz (represented by standards ranging from "Emily" to "Killer Joe"), and he has a playing history in New York City going back at least two decades, but one never knows what to expect from Hatfield's fingers. Technically prodigious, he has managed to totally fuse the contrapuntal aspects of classical guitar with the swinging freedom of jazz.

The music on String Theory is a snapshot of what Hatfield is currently thinking about musically, as expressed through both compositions and performance. The liner notes by Hatfield are quite detailed and deserve inspection. The record is arranged as a collection of four suites that each explore different kinds of music for guitar.

"The Gospel According to Sam" and "String Theory" are both examples, with different instrumentation, of "real time multitracking" with no overdubbing. This means that they were conceived as duets, with the first recorded track providing the accompaniment as the second track was laid down. A remarkable feeling of two players playing simultaneously enlivens this music. The first piece, for classical guitar and dobro, is meant as a remembrance of his father, Sam, and his childhood in Virginia. Hatfield's abundant, amazingly clean dobro mixes surprisingly well with the other style and produces a "hillbilly fugue" in "Prodigal Son." "String Theory" could not sound more different as double-stringed mandolin floats above and flits around a Mozartean accompaniment in "Quirks and Quarks" and becomes not one, but sometimes two voices in the fugue-ish "Sparticles."

The "Snowhill Variations," which have an interesting story behind them, are series of thirteen short variations of the type that will be familiar to classical players, echoing those of Fernando Sor and J. S. Bach until the last one hits and a Brazilian rhythm pops up out of nowhere.

The last set, "Borges & I," was written as responses to the great writer's short stories. Probably the most interesting material on the record and the closest to what might be called jazz, these seven pieces of about two minutes each have a bit more internal complexity, as on "Delia Elena San Marco" and "El Otro." Never far away, however, is the feel of counterpoint with a Latin American undertone, which is an enchanting mix.

Jazz or not, String Theory is at the same time quite technically amazing and musically astute, scattering many pearls seemingly effortlessly and making for a string player's delight.


Track Listing: The Gospel According to Sam: The Word; Redemption; Prodigal Son; Snowhill Variations: Theme; Variation 1; Variation 2; Variation 3; Variation 4; Variation 5; Variation 6; Variation 7; Variation 8; Variation 9; Variation 10; Variation 11; Variation 12; String Theory: Quirks and Quarks; The Ties that Bind; Sparticles; Borges & I: Delia Elena San Marco; Mutaciones; The Zahir; The Book of Sand; Argumentum Ornithologicum; Averroes' Search; El Otro.

Personnel: Ken Hatfield: classical guitar, dobro, mandolin.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Arthur Circle Music | Style: Beyond Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Eos CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read More Than This CD/LP/Track Review More Than This
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "Suite Ellington" CD/LP/Track Review Suite Ellington
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 28, 2016
Read "Dream Maps" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Maps
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 13, 2016
Read "Plays The Music Of Alvin P. Buckley" CD/LP/Track Review Plays The Music Of Alvin P. Buckley
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 16, 2016
Read "Blues and Ballads" CD/LP/Track Review Blues and Ballads
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 19, 2016
Read "New World" CD/LP/Track Review New World
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 9, 2016
Read "Play Date" CD/LP/Track Review Play Date
by James Nadal
Published: October 27, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!