Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

150

Ken Hatfield: String Theory

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
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 (three parts); Snowhill Variations (twelve parts); String Theory (three parts); Borges & I (seven parts).

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

Title: String Theory | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Arthur Circle Music


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Copenhagen Live 1964 CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by John Sharpe
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Somewhere Glimmer CD/LP/Track Review Somewhere Glimmer
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "Glow of Benares" CD/LP/Track Review Glow of Benares
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Seeing Is Believing" CD/LP/Track Review Seeing Is Believing
by Jim Trageser
Published: December 27, 2016
Read "Varanda" CD/LP/Track Review Varanda
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 16, 2017
Read "Ha Noi Duo" CD/LP/Track Review Ha Noi Duo
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture" CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 13, 2017
Read "Promethean" CD/LP/Track Review Promethean
by David A. Orthmann
Published: July 3, 2017

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!