Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jack DeJohnette - 1980 - New Directions In Europe

Jack DeJohnette 
New Directions In Europe

01. Salsa For Eddie G. 15:38
02. Where Or Wayne 12:00
03. Bayou Fever 18:11
04. Multo Spiliagio 9:33

Bass – Eddie Gomez
Drums, Piano – Jack DeJohnette
Guitar, Mandolin – John Abercrombie
Trumpet – Lester Bowie

Concert recording, June 1979, Willisau, Switzerland

There is a moment in “Bayou Fever” when Jack DeJohnette, showing his adeptness at the keyboard, lapses into “America the Beautiful.” This brief quotation anchors the piece, making it all the more poignant for having appeared in this historic live set. This eighteen-and-a-half-minute juggernaut is as gentle as it is lengthy, and embodies well the lively spirit that infused the drummer’s New Directions project. With the introduction of Eddie Gomez on bass, we hear the call of vocation, the instinct that allows us to persevere through even the most trying circumstances, if only to taste the beauties of creation one more time. Six-stringer John Abercrombie weaves his fingers through the loom of reflection, adjusting the microscope until the dividing cells of Lester Bowie’s trumpet come clearly into focus. This quintessential chunk of tactile birth cycles through a chain of experiences, each the sum of another life before. Once DeJohnette reverts to his forte, he nurtures an inward-looking fluttering of sticks. Abercrombie matches with a fluttering of his own as his nimble hands leap across the fingerboard with an energy that seems to draw audible gasps of expectation from the audience, but which never quite materializes into the full rupture we might expect. One hears in this not hesitation, but rather a more subdued commitment to melodic integrity that praises the living effect of performance over its virtuosity.

It’s a far cry from the album’s opener, “Salsa For Eddie G.,” which begins in the mountains before sliding down their sunlit faces amid scintillating articulations from Abercrombie. With prime support on all sides, DeJohnette is free to move forward without ever looking back. No matter how exploratory he becomes at the skins, his foot keeps the hi-hat going steady, leaving crumbs of light on a dark and winding trail. “Where Or Wayne” begins quietly enough, but then strains a terse improvisatory energy through a fine mesh. The palpable charm throughout provokes laughter from musicians and audience alike. During this portion of the show, DeJohnette introduces the musicians, after which Bowie returns to the foreground and blows out the candle with a flourish of finality.

While the music on In Europe does stretch its very skin to the limits, especially in the trumpet, it manages never to injure itself irreparably. The closest we get to pure abandon is “Multo Spiliagio,” a free-for-fall which contorts its body through many acrobatic challenges. Yet even the most explosive moments are somehow delicately circumscribed. It is an exercise in maturity and critical thinking that ends in sheer delicacy.

This altogether respectable outing gives us a concerted taste of an unrepeatable period in musical history, a time in which the music world’s progress was being most clearly charted on the jazz stage. The concert is miked in such a way that the listener feels situated right between audience and band. We can almost imagine Bowie—this recording’s brightest star—roaming about the stage, projecting his cackling brilliance into every corner of the venue, and hopefully further onto the shelf of any lover of marvelous music.

Jack DeJohnette - 1978 - New Directions

Jack DeJohnette New Directions
New Directions

01. Bayou Fever 8:40
02. Where Or Wayne 12:27
03. Dream Stalker 5:56
04. One Handed Woman 10:50
05. Silver Hollow 8:23

Bass – Eddie Gomez
Drums, Piano – Jack DeJohnette
Guitar, Mandolin – John Abercrombie
Trumpet – Lester Bowie

Recorded June 1978 at Talent Studios, Oslo

This album was indeed a new direction for drummer Jack DeJohnette, by then an ECM mainstay who with this effort flirted with the free-flowing atmospheres then characteristic of the label’s popular European projects. John Abercrombie—another household name whose amplified strings do wonders for DeJohnette’s impulses—forms, along with Chick Corea veteran Eddie Gomez on bass, a triangular foundation upon which trumpeter Lester Bowie—the album’s shining star—builds his towering sentimentalism. Fresh off the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Nice Guys session, Bowie lays it on thick, eschewing his whimsical asides for straight-on lyric fortitude. One is hard-pressed to keep from sweltering in the “Bayou Fever” that opens this forgiving tale. Abercrombie’s buttery-soft licks seem to adhere the rawer intensities of DeJohnette and Gomez, while Bowie deploys one potent bundle of melody after another. “Where Or Wayne,” a rubato pun anchored by a harder-edged bass, relays moments of ecstatic abandon with majestic guitar solos, expertly played off of by Gomez, who lights a few aesthetic candles of his own. The nebulous imagery of “Dream Stalker” and the old-school virtuosity of “One Handed Woman” make for a kindly pair and leave us with no other recourse than to take shelter in the “Silver Hollow.” Abercrombie goes acoustic in the album’s closer, trading sweeping lines with bass, all the while drowning in DeJohnette’s dawn-like pianism.

A spacious inner current, heir apparent to a straightforward jazz with no strings attached, feeds into every moment of New Directions. The performances are attentively recorded with a present, live feel that gives the drums all the room they need, and us all the sonic candy we crave.

Neal Schon & Jan Hammer - 1983 - Here To Stay

Neal Schon & Jan Hammer
Here To Stay

01. No More Lies (3:30)
02. Don't Stay Away (3:35)
03. (You Think You're) So Hot (3:53)
04. Turnaround (4:48)
05. Self Defense (3:11)
06. Long Time (3:50)
07. Time Again (4:55)
08. Sticks and Stones (3:14)
09. Peace of Mind (2:12)
10. Covered by Midnight (5:26)

Neal Schon / guitar, guitar synthesizer, lead vocals
Jan Hammer / synthesizer, keyboards, drums

Glen Burtnik / bass (1), backing vocals (1,2,6,7)
Colin Hodgkinson / bass (3.4,6,8-10)
Ross Valory / bass (5)
Steve Smith / drums (5)
Steve Perry / backing vocals (5)

About 15 years ago Jan Hammer began causing a stir with his Balkan-flavored jazz piano stylings. Somewhere along the road since then he underwent an artistic conversion, and following a fiery baptism with the Mahavishnu Orchestra he was born again as a purebred rock and roller. On this album, his second duo collaboration with guitarist Neal Schon of Journey, Hammer betrays only the slightest trace of his jazz roots. Instead, he immerses himself in the mammoth dimensions of stadium rock with a fervor and instinctive understanding of the style that could easily bring a coliseum full of Foreigner fans to their feet. Though Schon's overdriven guitar dominates this disc, Hammer gives it a deeper level of expression with his array of synthesizer settings. When doubling Schon's riffs or chords, Hammer favors cold crystalline colors. His solos are miniature gems, remarkable for their restraint within the album's power rock context. Usually you can pick Hammer's lines out from the wall of six-string distortion, especially when he adds a hard edge to his tone, or resurrects the woody textures he favored with Mahavishnu and on his own early solo projects. But there are moments when his chameleon-like command of guitar phrasing on the synthesizer blurs the edges between his and Schon's licks. He evokes electric violin sounds in his fills on "So Hot," and nails down a harmonica patch just about perfectly in "Peace Of Mind." Young keyboardists can learn a lot from an album like this about how the slightest nuances in keyboard phrasing and synthesizer programming can shoot new life into rock music without compromising its integrity. Columbia, FC-38428.   –Bob Doerschuk

The Powerhouse Partnership of Neal Schon and Jan Hammer
By Dale Anderson
JOURNEY FANS may pay little attention to it once Frontiers, the latest album from the San Francisco superstars, hits the stores. Nevertheless, Journey's guitarist, Neal Schon, has developed a most intriguing collaboration with Czech-born jazz-rock keyboardist Jan Hammer.
The latest fruit of  their partnership is Here to Stay (Columbia 38428), an album of such force and forthrightness that it should pique the interest no matter what one thinks of Journey.
Having probed each other's potential in last year's introductory Untold Passion album, Schon and Hammer zero in what they do best. The outcome is superior to what either of them do separately.
No homogenized licks from Schon here. He propels Hammer's hard-edged moods with the kind of  lyrical overdrive that'll make people remember he once played with Santana. Hammer, meanwhile, in his quest to build better basic rock, gives Schon the substance and the schematics to work with, then wisely holds back most of the time and lets his newfound playmate wail.
The opening "No More Lies" demonstrates just how incendiary their approach can be. The phrases of the chorus flare out. The guitar cuts the synthesized backdrop into perfect pieces of kindling. It burns like a house afire. When Hammer takes the upper hand in the brittle blockish "(You Think You're) So Hot" and "Long Time," you understand why he gave up jazz.
The Schon-Hammer pairing is proof of the adage that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. 
Friday, January 28, 1983

Neal Schon & Jan Hammer - 1981 - Untold Passion

Neal Schon & Jan Hammer
Untold Passion

01. Wasting Time (3:46)
02. I'm Talking to You (4:54)
03. Ride (2:27)
04. I'm Down (4:09)
05. Arc (3:57)
06. It's Alright (4:43)
07. Hooked on Love (3:06)
08. On the Beach (5:28)
09. Untold Passion (7:01)

Neal Schon / guitar, guitar synthesizer, vocals
Jan Hammer / synthesizer, keyboards, drums
Colin Hodgkinson / bass

Some things are so simple it's amazing people don't think of them sooner. Over the years, some of the finest representatives of  jazz/rock fusion have had a difficult time attracting universal album radio acceptance. Examples are Al DiMeola, Jean-luc Ponty, Larry Carlton, Jeff Beck, and The Dregs, etc. As outstanding as these musicians are with their instruments, the one missing ingredient was a commercial vocal quality. Neal Schon ? Jan Hammer's Untold Passion has it, as well as all the stories, rock and roll rumors and hippie myths you’ve ever heard about Neal Schon's great guitar phrasing. Schon has been an exceptional player since he was around 15 years old; that's when Eric Clapton put the word out he was interested. Seconds later, Santana stole him away, and Neal provides all the second guitar licks on some of the finest albums from Santana's middle period. Developing with each passing day, Journey is Schon's most current association with album radio, and here he gets the chance to stretch out and uncork a high grade performance with Jan Hammer, one of the most revered musicians in all of jazz and rock. From side one The Album Network recommends "Wasting Time," and "I'm Down." On side two try "It's Allright" and "On The Beach." If you liked Jeff Beck's Wired and Blow By Blow, you'll certainly admire all of Untold Passion, a multi-colored display of outstanding musicianship.  
Before Journey became one of the top pop/rock acts of the early '80s with a string of arena rock anthems and power ballads, the group had a more detectable prog and fusion edge -- while guitarist Neal Schon's earliest work was with the very un-Journey-like Carlos Santana. So at the height of Journey's popularity, it appeared as though Schon wanted to get back to his fusion roots by uniting with keyboard wizard Jan Hammer. However, the resulting album, 1981's Untold Passion, wasn't going to be confused with Mahavishnu Orchestra anytime soon -- tracks such as "I'm Talking to You" wasn't much different from Journey's melodic rock style, while "Hooked on Love" saw Schon (who also doubled as vocalist) replicate Paul Rodgers' singing style. That said, the funky keyboard/guitar duel "The Ride" gave both Schon and Hammer a chance to show off their chops. Untold Passion seems to lean toward the more melodic rock side of things, rather than finger-spraining chops.

Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer - 1975 - Like Children

Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer
Like Children

01. Country And Eastern Music 5:34
02. No Fear 3:28
03. I Remember Me 3:47
04. Earth (Still Our Only Home) 4:15
05. Topeka 2:57
06. Steppings Tones 3:29
07. Night 5:48
08. Full Moon Boogie 4:11
09. Giving In Gently / I Wonder 4:47

- Jerry Goodman / violins, violins, guitars, vocals
- Jan Hammer / piano, synthesizer, drums, percussion, vocals

What they said back in the day:

db March 13, 1975

The first time I played this album, it came on as a vital, important, almost revelatory experience.

If you listened to Goodman and Hammer's work with Mahavishnu, you have some idea of what to expect, but this is far more of a studio date, much more dependent upon electronics than anything they've done previously. This isn't to disparage it; indeed, I've never heard two men sound more like a large. integrated, interacting group. Extensive overdubbing almost always sounds forced, sterile, test-tube music. This session is alive.

The first cut begins with an acoustic piano intro,  followed by a Moog-played melody with some interesting intervals reminiscent of mid-'60s Coltrane (though the phrasing and voicing is entirely dissimilar). Segue to a second theme harmonized by Goodman on violins and violas. The alternation is then repeated, this time with lyrics behind the first theme (I say "behind" advisedly, since all the lyrics on the record are hard to get because of muting and under recording.)

No Fear's title must be ironic; it's a speedy piece performed solo by Hammer on Moog and sequencer, and the visual image I get is of tiny mechanical men moving in maniacal concert. Definitely a song to avoid if you're susceptible to paranoia. Earth is really attractive. The lead riff, done on bass Moog, seems both Afro and ricky-tick, if such a mixture can be imagined. This leads into a chanted vocal (again, the lyrics get swallowed) followed by a fine rock solo on guitar.

Side two contains some more adventurous metric experiments. Tones sounds like it's in 5, but the 5 seems to me just slightly off-center, creating some effective tension. The second part of Night is also in some weird meter which I tried and failed to break down, and I Wonder is in 13 (subdivided 3/3/3/4). Tones is begun by the Moog bass: it's a walking pattern, more or less, but the intervals are spacy. (Trane might've liked this one, too.) There's actually no horizontal development to speak of, but the mood-tentative, somewhat sad, but also whimsical is effectively conveyed. The first part of Night, however, is quite similar in voicing and feeling. and I think somebody erred in putting the two tunes together. Boogie is a Goodman showcase; he converses with himself on guitar and violin in a biting, propulsive sequence.

This session is astonishingly complex but almost never pretentious; the playing is virtuoso without seeming egotistical and the mood is simultaneously warmly relaxed and nervously exploratory. What's missing, if anything, is the raw energy of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and I guess that's why I've heard this album differently each time I've played it. When I come to it with my own energy high, it's dynamite: but when my own is low, this won't get to me. With Mahavishnu, you can have been dead for three days and still wanna boogie when he opens up.        -heineman 
 downbeat  March 13, 1975 

The Listening  Post August 1975 

Like everyone else I know, I was knocked out when the Mahavishnu Orchestra surfaced four years ago.  Since the (original) Orchestra broke up amidst tales of personal conflict and infighting among the band, thus far, none of the members have been able to catch up with their reputations.  McLaughlin seems to have overextended himself , Billy Cobham can’t figure out how to be a superstar on drums … and bassist Rick Laird hasn’t resurfaced. 
     Now, with Like Children, keyboardist Jan Hammer and violinist Jerry Goodman have managed to recapture the excitement.  They try to hit all of the bases on this album, moving from electronic psychedelia  in “No Fear” to a pastoral mood on “I Remember Me”.  Hammer and Goodman take turns dominating the compositions, working to share the airtime after the competition in the Orchestra.  “Topeka”, on side one, along with the more extended tunes on side two, are close to the sound of their old band.  Goodman’s stringed instruments (violin, viola, guitar, mandolin) and Hammer’s keyboards (synthesizer, piano) and drums  fill in the gaps left by McLaughlin and Cobham, continuing their musical duels they fought in the parent band.  The pair come off with one of the major tour de forces in 1975, handling all of the instruments, even throwing in a few vocals.   D.L.W. 

Rolling Stone  March 27, 1975 
by Bob Palmer

Two-fifths of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra (Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer) and one fourth of Return to Forever (Stanley Clarke) have their say on the debut releases from Nat Weiss's Nemperor label, and it sounds as if the first real alternative to Columbia's jazz/rock juggernaut may be shaping up. Goodman and Hammer have chosen to work as a duo, achieving an orchestral sound with multiple overdubs, while Clarke has gathered an unusually distinguished and compatible crew of sidemen. The resulting albums differ from each other, but both albums are different enough from those of Columbia artists like Weather Report, Herbie Hancock and the current Mahavishnu Orchestra to suggest at least a mini trend.

"Country & Eastern music" is Jan Hammer's half-in-jest name for whatever it is that happens when he combines his keyboards and drums with Goodman's stringed instruments. By playing and overdubbing together in the studio the two musicians manage to avoid the artificial, static qualities of Mike Oldfield's work, and some of their textures and effects transcend the country and the Eastern, achieving the uniquely sublime. All the wrinkles aren't out of the idea yet. The occasional vocals, well intentioned though they may be, appear thin after the technologically beefed up instrumental sound of the duo. There are hulking, polymetric excursions that will inevitably draw accusations of cashing in on the old Mahavishnu sound. But there are also some devastatingly effective sonic landscapes, and as a whole the album is a surprisingly musical use of the easy-to-abuse multiple overdubbing technique.

Mahavishnu Orchestra fans rejoice! I know a lot of people were sad to see the original MO lineup dissolve, even though the second incarnation was equally fantastic, albeit in a different way. Fans who have a jones for more original Mahavishnu should look for this record. Jan Hammer, the virtuoso keyboardist known for his guitaristic signature Moog lead tones, and fiery violinist Jerry Goodman teamed up for this record - I'd love to know exactly how the conversation started, especially considering that two of these tunes - "Steppings Tones" (written by Mahavishnu bassist Rick Laird) and "I Wonder" - had been previously recorded and performed live by Mahavishnu Orchestra in the last days of the original lineup's existence. Perhaps they knew that the studio versions of those tunes, as recorded by Mahavishnu, were going to languish in Columbia Records' vaults (Until 1999, that is, when they were finally released on "The Lost Trident Sessions").
My experience with this album is unique in that I have been a Mahavishnu fan for over half of my life (since age 13!), and while I knew about this record, I was never able to find a copy, as it was long out of print by that time. I digested every note of every Mahavishnu Orchestra album I could get my hands on, but the enduring influence was always Jan Hammer and his beautiful Moog and Rhodes piano playing. I grabbed every record I could find that Jan played on, including the recordings with Jeff Beck - beginning with the live album "Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group LIVE".

Usually on a live album, an artist or group performs songs from their studio albums. I always wondered what studio album "Earth (Still Our Only Home)" and "Full Moon Boogie" came from, as I had all the Jan Hammer Group LPs, and they weren't on any of those. It never dawned on me to keep seeking out "Like Children".

Long story short; I finally have this record after all these years...I cannot describe what a trip it is to hear this now, since some of these tunes have literally shaped my musical taste (and my playing). It's like discovering a lost Mahavishnu album (another one ;-))!

So...what's it sound like?

Well, it's actually kind of quirky! The weird vocals that I never could understand on the Jeff Beck/ Jan Hammer live version of "Earth (Still Our Only Home)" are present here, sung by both Hammer and Goodman. They also sing on "Like Children" and "Full Moon Boogie", while Jerry Goodman sings solo on "Giving In Gently". The vocals are tucked pretty far back in the mix, with tons of echo added...I suppose to obscure the fact that neither Hammer or Goodman are world-class vocalists. Goodman really does a nice job on "Giving In Gently" though. Heartfelt and moving.

Jerry Goodman, in addition to being the Jimi Hendrix of violin, also plays guitar. While he's certainly no John McLaughlin, he definitely holds his own, even dueling with himself, Mahavishnu-style, on tunes like "Topeka". Jan Hammer plays everything else - keyboards (including Moog bass) and drums. He's not Billy Cobham, but I really enjoy his playing style. It has a recklessness to it that I really dig, similar to Stevie Wonder's drumming, albeit a bit more complex.

I bet this record was really fun to make. A truly collaborative effort.

Stylistically, it's all over the map, with Jan Hammer's full-on synth explorations via Oberheim digital sequencer, Minimoog, etc on "No Fear" (how he was able to do all those ostinati with a 256-note sequencer is mind-boggling) , Atmospheric, abstract tone poems such as "I Remember Me" and "Night", and fun stuff like "Country and Eastern Music" and "Full Moon Boogie". "Topeka" sounds like it would have been a Mahavishnu tune if John McLaughlin had given it half a chance.

Some of these tunes were recorded previously, as mentioned earlier, and some were recorded later. "Earth (Still Our Only Home)" is much slower and funkier here, but is lacking the energy of the Jeff Beck/Jan Hammer Live version (not to mention Beck's guitar stylings). "Full Moon Boogie" is almost a disaster here compared to the live version from the aforementioned album - not only is the groove better on the live recording, the vocals here sound almost like a joke. "Steppings Tones" was better played by Mahavishnu Orchestra. Since it's such a tightly-structured piece, it really benefits from a full band texture (and McLaughlin's guitar and Cobham's drums don't hurt).

However, I much prefer this rendition of Goodman's "I Wonder" here - it serves as a perfect segue from the moving, beautiful melodic "Giving In Gently", and the arrangement has more of a "rock" edge to it, partly due to Hammer's simple (but not simplistic) driving drums. Goodman contributes a very competent guitar solo to this tune. The emotional impact of the piece really works in this context, and is a great way to end a great record.

All in all, this is a fun experimental record, with plenty of stuff that will be of interest not only to Mahavishnu Orchestra fans, but to all fans of great music.

Jan Hammer - 2008 - Live In New York 1975

Jan Hammer
Live In New York

01. Darkness 6:24
02. Red and Orange 7:44
03. Earth 4:56
04. Topeka 6:03
05. Twenty One 7:29
06. Sixth Day / Country and Eastern Music 9:30
07. I Remember Me 11:18

Jan Hammer/keyboards,
Steve Kindler/violin,
Fernando Saunders/bass
Tony Smith/drums

Red Gate Records
live concert of the Jan Hammer Group (10/17/75).

New Jersey Dispatch - October 18, 1975 
Hammer Creates Surreal Session 
The Jan Hammer Group's concert the other night at The Bottom Line, was complex without being pretentious, the performance virtuoso without seeming egotistical, the mood simultaneously relaxed, and nervously exploratory. Hammer, a master of keyboard instruments including pianos, synthesizers, digital sequencers, and the mellotron as well as the drums lit the stage with a blaze of total space age jazz improvisation. Forget Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. This 27-year- old Czech- turned American citizen, who bears a vague physical resemblance to Elton John, is undoubtedly the keyboard man of the future. This polyrhythm master gets your pulse beating from the tip of your tapping toes to the last shock of your hair. Hammer, smoothly changing from a piano modified to sound like a guitar to a low register organ as aptly backed up by drummer Tony Smith (formerly of Malo and Azteca) and bassist Fernando Saunders. The other lead instrument in the four-piece band is the electric violin. Steven Kindler, who like Hammer, is a former member of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, complemented the keyboard solos and handled long passages of seemingly ad libitum jazz passages with the adroitness of a super star. His talent should have been noticed long ago. This music soars into outer space at the speed of light, no holds barred. This observer feels he must warn those listeners who are faint of heart to stay away. This kind of energy might give cardiac arrest to the modern jazz listening neophyte. Unfortunately, Hammer did only one number and the intro to another from his latest album, "The First Seven Days." This piece of craftsmanship is a delight right down to the cover.  This album matches the creativity imagined to have gone on in the first seven days of heaven and earth. Especially fine is the final cut, "The Seventh Day," where an eerie celestial mood is intermingled with the earthiness of syncopated piano work that changes its time signature with each measure. It is the final climax to a spellbound creation of the imagination. Hammer's music is at once primal and seething, teeming jungle undercurrents, and the most far-out adventures of a star trek to unknown thresholds of the mind. Its success lies in outstanding classical study and unending determination for new frontiers. It is the music of the future and it is older than man.

Truly epic solos from Jan Hammer on this release. Red and Orange is simply on fire. Hammer throws down some fantastic solos. Steve Kindler lays down some impressive violin solos as well. Tony Smith is superb throughout. I Remember Me is another highlight for me. The drums and interplay are top notch. If you want to pick up some Jan Hammer post Mahavishnu Orchestra this is a good one to get. The only problem I have is the obvious editing on a few tracks... plus you just know there is more music out there from this show they had to have dropped for the release. HOT!

Jan Hammer - 1987 - Escape From Television

Jan Hammer 
Escape From Television

01. Crockett's Theme (3:30)
02. Theresa (3:07)
03. Colombia (2:38)
04. Rum Cay (3:02)
05. The Trial and the Search (4:54)
06. Tubbs and Valerie (3:32)
07. Forever Tonight (4:01)
08. Last Flight (3:30)
09. Rico's Blues (2:54)
10. Before the Storm (4:32)
11. Night Talk (2:43)
12. Miami Vice Theme (2:26)
13. Forever Tonight (6:05)

 Jan Hammer / percussion, drums, keyboards

Joe Kowalski
Composer ‘Hammers’ out some keepers

Writing this kind of column involves a certain amount of guesswork. The albums come in early and music critics are supposed to imagine how much, if any, impact a given work will have out- side the columnist's turntable room. 
Of course, our ilk often sink into a Public Be Damned mode, perching ourselves on the end of a limb and daring anyone with a saw to prove us wrong. 
I've ended up at the bottom of the tree. more than once: canonizing singer/writers like John Hiatt, John Prine and Steve Goodman for example, none of whom has ever risen above cult level. And then there was that review of the new pop singer I considered over- promoted, with a "strong voice battling the usual disco/soul mush," Whitney Houston. 
But I seem to be doing all right in calling the career of one Jan Hammer, best known as the ace composer of "Miami Vice" music. 
When the show was on the brink of cancellation, I put together a three-part, Nielsen Be Damned series which culminated in an interview with Hammer. Just before the third column was published "Vice" associate Producer Fred Lyle told me that NBC was renewing. 
I predicted not only Hammer's Emmy nomination but the establishment backlash which would rob him of the "Outstanding Achievement in Musical Composition" award. ("Murder, She Wrote" won the statue that first year.) 
When Hammer reacted bitterly and felt like quitting the show, I suggested producer Michael Mann hire him someone to lighten the weekly load. They have. 
My interview column also revealed that the composer had been a child actor in his native Czechoslovakia and I asked if he'd enjoy a small on screen role in the crime drama. Sure, but no time, he answered. By golly, though, next season there he was, doing a cameo in a wedding scene, type-cast as the organist. 
All these are examples of correlation, of course, not cause and effect. Mine is a nice little column but probably not real influential out there in Television Land. 
TV is the career which Jan Hammer has been trying to phase out of. The album Escape From Television is his bridge burner. Ten of the 12 instrumentals are from past episodes. All are remarkable, for several reasons. 
Even with the many bad imitations around, Hammer's "Vice" work remains unique. The sound is clearly different from the telegraphed schmaltz of the competition; different even from much of the groundbreak technique of new motion pictures. 
Hammer's style does what good movie music should do: help develop the visual plot, draw the characters, signal the emotion. Sometimes the effect is subtly ironic, in contrast to Lyle's often outrageously pointed choices of pop tune insertions. As this collection shows, the TV pieces are good enough to stand alone. That was confirmed two years ago when his elongated version of the show's theme hydroplaned to Number 1 on the Hot 100 
What is most amazing to me is that he created these gems—and the underscore for 69 full episodes —on a weekly deadline. The Tuesday he talked to me he had just begun looking at incomplete video cuts of a show which would air a week from that Friday. Moreover "Miami Vice" is filmed in Florida and edited in California. Jan Hammer lives and works in a farmhouse in upstate New York. 
Escape includes two new compositions, "Forever Tonight" and ‘'Before the Storm." They are upbeat and fairly conventional. I'd like to hear them with lyrics. (Har.) 
Three tracks are especially familiar to fans of the series. “Crockett’s Theme,” a multi-million seller in Europe, has been used sporadically during the run most recently in the Sonny Gets Shot episode late this season. The slice never fails to make me feel warm and lazy. 
"Rico's Blues" sews a very sweet guitar line through thick furry musical fabric. Despite that overall feeling, there is something imperceptibly dangerous going on here. 
The 2:26 "Miami Vice Theme" is fun to listen to, but I still prefer the 1:00 TV version. Although l usually timeshift "Vice" on the VCR, I never fast-forward past those sparkling credits. Somehow, the theme "contains" those 69 episodes inside its 60 seconds. 
Jan Hammer was born six time zones east of upstate New York. But he has become an American original. 

There are a lot of things working against this album before it even gets out of the gate; the music on here was made in the 80s, a lot of 80s sounding early digital keyboards were used in it's making and the songs on this album were created to serve as background music for some cheezy 80s TV shows. The big suprise is that this album sounds pretty good, especially if you take it for what it is; background music.
This isn't a true soundtrack album, instead what we have on here are twelve seperate semi-pop instumental songs that contain great original sounding, and often melancholy, melodies wrapped up in excellent innovative arrangements. Usually 80s keyboards are annoying, but occaisonally they seem to fit 80s music better than classic 70s analog keyboards would. For instance, some of the better 80s Genesis songs have unique keyboard parts that actually fit the song better because Banks is using the thinner more plastic sounds of that era. It is all part of a weird principal in which if something that is usually bad works, than it works better than something that is usually good.

Not all of the songs on here are pop oriented, some get into world music territory and others sound like prog-rock lite, sometimes even sounding like an easy listening version of Hammer's old Mahavishnu Orchestra. This album is not for everyone, but there are some listening groups that might like this kind of odd instrumental album. First, it's possible that people who like slightly progressive 80s pop rock groups such as Genesis, Asia or Toto might like this album. Also, people who like lite-rock groups who play lite- classical pieces, for instance groups like Sky or Mannheim Steamroller. Finally, people who like that unique style where instrumental progressive rock meets exotic lounge music, ie Manzenera's Primitive Guitars, Bo Hanson's Lord of the Rings or Fripp and Summer's Bewitched, might be able to dig this album.

Jan Hammer - 1985 - Miami Vice

Jan Hammer 
Miami Vice

101. Original Miami Vice Theme 1:00
102. Crockett's Theme 3:32
103. New York Theme 2:59
104. Tubbs And Valerie 3:32
105. Evan 3:06
106. Rum Cay 3:03
107. One Way Out 4:15
108. Flashback 3:19
109. Chase 2:39
110. Theresa 3:07
111. Colombia 2:39
112. Marina 3:41
113. Last Flight 3:30
114. Night Talk 2:44
115. Payback 3:45
116. Poem 3:05
117. Rico's Blues 2:54
118. The Trial And The Search 4:55
119. Wedding 3:23
120. Miami Vice Theme 2:26

201. Candy 3:03
202. Voodoo Dance 3:48
203. Lombard Trial 2:35
204. Boat Party 3:06
205. Angelina Flashback 3:26
206. Rain 2:33
207. Clues 3:53
208. Crockett's Return 3:23
209. Shadow In The Dark 3:08
210. Incoming 2:06
211. The Talk 5:11
212. Gina 3:01
213. Stone's War 2:52
214. El Viejo Mix 3:05
215. Airport Swap 2:20
216. Russian Story 4:13
217. Cool Runnin' 2:35
218. Texas Ranger 2:21
219. The Great Boat Race 2:52
220. Golden Triangle 2:47
221. Runaround 3:22
222. Turning Point 1:25



NEW YORK Here's an unusual formula for pop chart success: put your recording and session playing career on indefinite hold and start composing music to videotape images of crime scenes and high-fashion car chases. The result, musically and commercially, might just be something like the No. 1 "Miami Vice Theme" single.
Jan Hammer, the Czech-born multi-instrumentalist, had been amassing a long list of credits since the early 1970s with his own Jan Hammer Group and Hammer projects (on Nemperor and Elektra, respectively), on two duet albums with Journey's Neal Schon and on albums by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck and Al DiMeola, among dozens of others. All this activity ended rather abruptly, and Hammer hasn't played a record session in a year and a half—the last being for Mick Jagger's "She's The Boss."

Instead, he's been spending days and nights sequestered in a New York studio, screening final or near- final cuts of "Miami Vice" episodes sent to him weekly on videocassettes, and returning finished half- inch stereo tapes of score music directly to the show's music editor.

Hammer writes, performs and even engineers every second of the show's music—except, of course, for the usage of hit singles, which had been the TV series' other trend-setting stroke. As musical director, Hammer also has full say over the placement of his music.

Hammer maintains that it's the theme's ability to stand up with other hit singles that sets it apart from the rest of the "easy listening, prefab sounding" television themes that haven't become radio hits. "It's the first time an honest-to-goodness piece of real rock music became a theme. It's the only one that sounds 'real.' "

It was "just a chance meeting" that connected Hammer with "Miami Vice" executive producer Michael Mann (who co-produced the MCA album along with Danny Goldberg). But the compatibility of both parties was immediately evident: "I 'clicked' instantly with the look and the feel of the show," Hammer recounts. "Just from the first few descriptions, I was able to play him something."

Hammer's one-man operation and the standing order for 20 minutes of new, original music every week keep him under time pressure, but don't necessarily exhaust him creatively.

In fact, Hammer's manager, Elliott Sears, notes that this is the first time Hammer has been freed of the categorizations that previously applied to his career, and has been able to play any genre of music, be it reggae, pop, rock or ethnic.

Hammer's quick turnover does, however, preclude the use of orchestral music. "You can't (duplicate) that with digital, but why should you? I don't feel the need for that kind of sound. I'm doing something different."

The "Miami Vice" album was originally conceived as primarily instrumental. But aside from the usual concerns surrounding the marketing of an instrumental album, the opportunity for cross-marketing was one that MCA, fresh from its double-platinum success with "Beverly Hills Cop," couldn't pass up.

As a result, five Hammer compositions were placed on the album— along with new and recent cuts by frequent "Miami Vice" visitor Glenn Frey (also bulleting in the top five with "You Belong To The City," which debuted on the program), Chaka Khan, , Phil Collins and Tina Turner.

Accidentally, Hammer was given fifth billing on the first million album jackets—but that was rectified at the end of October, when MCA shipped new album and cassette sleeves moving Hammer's name up to first position. Album sequencing was also changed, with Hammer's cuts consolidated to lead off side two.

Hammer did manage to escape the studio recently—to jump on a London-bound plane and perform "Miami Vice Theme" on Britain's "Top of The Pops." The single had sprinted from 30 to 10 on the U.K. charts even though the TV show has been on between-season hiatus, without reruns, since June. Its prospective return to the British airwaves in January has led to suggestions that a second "Miami Vice" album might be in order, timed for March, 1986, reports Sears.

Demand for Hammer's services is now understandably high, but because of "Miami Vice" he has chosen just a couple of new projects, including the score for the film "Secret Admirer," released this past summer. Hammer's first sound- track involvement had been on the score of 1983's "A Night In Heaven." His other work in progress is for an ABC-TV movie, about a policeman—in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  

Hammer - 1979 - Hammer


01. Goodbye (3:37)
02. I Got You (5:50)
03. Oh, Pretty Woman (3:41)
04. One Day (4:38)
05. Vaporize Me (3:42)
06. Nowhere To Go (5:46)
07. Forever Tonight (4:46)
08. Highway Made Of Glass (3:14)
09. Rainbow Day (5:38)
10. Sister Louisiana (3:14)

Jan Hammer / keyboards, vocals, producer
Glen Burtnick / lead vocals, guitar, tambourine
Colin Hodgkinson / bass, 12-string guitar, vocals
Gregg Carter / drums

Very solid and substantial sounding rock music that is more mainstream rock sounding than what has usually been associated with Jan Hammer, i.e. the Miami Vice sound. It is well worth taking the time for a listen.

Hammer - 1978 - Black Sheep

Black Sheep

01. Jetstream (4:09)
02. Heavy Love (6:05)
03. Black Sheep (5:14)
04. Light Of Dawn (3:24)
05. Hey Girl (3:15)
06. Waiting No More (4:56)
07. Between The Sheets Of Music (3:17)
08. Manic Depression (4:29)
09. Silent One (7:14)

Jan Hammer / synths, electric piano, drums, congas, lead (1,3) & backing vocals, producer
Bob Christianson / lead (1,3,4,7,9) & backing vocals
Colin Hodgkinson / lead (2,6,8) & backing vocals
Gregg Geya Carter / harmony vocals (1,7)
Fernando Saunders / bass (8)
Tony Smith / drums (8)

Just like a good wine, Jan Hammer seems to be getting better with age. Hammer’s collaborations with Jeff Beck brought several vintage albums several years back, and a recent work with Tony Williams gave us another gem in "The Joy of Flying" (reviewed last week).

Now Jan Hammer's new band has released "Black Sheep" (Asylum 6E-173), and it stands out for its raw simplicity and rocking urgency; .

The album credits insist (in bold black type) that ''there is no guitar on this album," but Hammer jams so fast and furiously with his synthesizer that it really sounds like there must be at least one. "Jet Stream" will rock you back to your roots. As a drummer, Hammer commands attention. He doubles here with Tony Smith, dividing percussion duties. He also sings backup and lead, and composes all of the album's music. Vocals are fittingly ominous and well arranged to complement musicianship and the overall Hammer feel. Bob Christianson and Colin Hodgkinson add their progressive touch even on the ballad "Light Of  Dawn" while maintaining a ferocious edge during an exceptional remake of Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” Fernando Saunders on bass keeps manic pace with the rest as Hodgkinson belts out the vocals. 

As usual, the album is produced with the cleanliness and strength of the seasoned veteran, Hammer, continues to be. He's been around a long time and with the creative energy displayed here, you can bet he'll be around for sometime to come. 
 San Francisco Examiner  April 13, 1979 

Wounded Bird reissued Jan Hammer's often beautiful Melodies, from 1977, during the tail-end of the '90s. Six years later, the label combined the two releases that followed it -- 1978's Black Sheep and 1979's Hammer -- into one double-disc package. These two albums belong together as much as any other pair, since they are the two credited to "Hammer" -- essentially a heavy jazz-rock group. On Black Sheep, keyboardist Hammer is assisted by Melodies holdovers Fernando Saunders (bass) and Tony Smith (drums), along with future Whitesnake associate Colin Hodgkinson (bass, vocals) and Bob Christianson (vocals). Here, there are traces of the soft rock and R&B of Melodies, offset with blitzing fusion and some scrunched-face blues moves better left to the Steve Miller Band. "Jet Stream" sets the tone, resembling a warp-speed version of Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" with a streak of fusion running through it. For Hammer, Saunders and Smith departed, while drummer Gregg Geya Carter and vocalist/guitarist Glen Burtnick moved in. It's more streamlined than Black Sheep, and less rooted in jazz, falling roughly near the Foreigner/Toto axis. The two albums, both of which are fair at best, indicate Hammer's continued embrace of rock and technology. He went on to collaborate with Neal Schon, and then to his work for Miami Vice.

Black Sheep is the first album released under the "Hammer" banner led by Jan Hammer, released in 1978. It was his first album since recording "Melodies" with the Jan Hammer Group in 1977. This album also features Hammer covering "Manic Depression" by Jimi Hendrix. Black Sheep remains one of the rare, sought after albums released by Hammer.

Jan Hammer Group - 1978 - Live

Jan Hammer Group 

01. Honey 5379 4:55
02. Just For Fun 10:50
03. Who Are They? 6:45
04. Earth 6:13
05. Blue Wind 4:57

Violin – Steve Kindler
Bass – Fernando Saunders
Drums – Tony Smith
Synthesizer [Moog, Oberheim, Freeman], Electric Piano, Timbales – Jan Hammer

If you're a fan of Jan's synth playing, this is a must-listen. I'm a long-time synth player myself and I think this is his best playing on record. People who remember hearing the JHG live know that there are few recordings that capture his playing genius, possibly because record companies tended to shy away from extended soloing, possibly because Jan himself tended to keep the solos shorter as time went on as a response to a real or perceived lack of interest by his fans (particularly after Miami Vice). In any case, he really cooks on a few of these tunes. I first heard this record after buying it in Rasputin's used record shop in Berkeley CA around 1980. It was a limited radio station-only release called "Melodies LIVE!" which was released just prior to Melodies. Until this release in 2014 I was the only person I ever ran into who had ever even heard it. I'm quite sure Jan plays his custom monophonic Minimoog portable analog keyboard controller (the one with the tilted box for left-hand controllers) which pre-dates his historic Powell Probe. Though the playing is monophonic, this is a "power trio" configuration adding violin, and Jan acts the part of rock guitarist here - using his signature distorted sync sweep sound throughout - the polyphonic version of which sweep him to fame as the "guitar" in the Miami Vice theme. If you want to hear a whole record of that kind of sound, albeit monophonic, this is your ticket. Bottom line: this album best captures Jan absolutely cooking on synth in a solid rock and roll format, with his solos typically coming toward the ends of the pieces. Highlights: "Just for Fun," "Who Are They?," Blue Wind (complete with Oberheim FVS going famously out of tune) and especially "Earth (Still Our Only Home).

Stripped down to a power-quartet, Jan Hammer's 1977 group had toured in support of their 1977 album 'Melodies'. This radio-promo-only release contains extended live performances of some of these songs. Well recorded and mixed, it was a good representation of that band as it tried to cross-over from jazz-fusion into power rock-territory. Fans of this Jan Hammer Group will probably enjoy it if they can find a copy.

Jan Hammer Group - 1977 - Melodies

Jan Hammer Group

01. Too Much To Lose (2:47)
02. Peaceful Sundown (3:55)
03. I Sing (4:23)
04. Honey 5379 (2:37)
05. Window Of Love (3:30)
06. What It Is (2:57)
07. Don't You Know (2:58)
08. Just For Fun (4:14)
09. Hyperspace (3:43)
10. Who Are They? (6:14)
11. Your Love (3:30)

Jan Hammer / synths, electric piano, Mellotron (1,11), piano (5,11), drums (1,5,7), congas (1)
Steven Kindler / acoustic & electric violins, bass (7), cello & electric guitar (9), backing vocals
Fernando Saunders / bass, acoustic guitar & cello (3), lead (3,7,10), harmony & backing vocals
Tony Smith / drums, lead (1,2,4-6,8) & backing vocals

No matter how many times I listen to it the Jan Hammer Group's 'Melodies'Other the fact the none of the musicians on this album are well known except Jan Hammer never ceases to be anything but purely impressive.The musicianship is first rate,Jan Hammer uses his 'guitar synthesizer' to great effect and his own production of this album is emmaculate-from song to song Jan's keyboards and synthesizer and Steve Kindler's violin often merge into one single entity.And these songs and lyrics truely as stylistically diverse as they come.One thing is every tune on here,even the instrumentals are very melodic as the title suggests-the breezy romantic R&B of "Too Much To Loose","Peaceful Sundown",Fernando Saunder's warbling "I Sing" and the lovely "Don't You Know" all evoke a relaxed,romantic mood and are very pituresqe.Saunder's bass on the hip-shaking funk tines "Honey 5379",the deep "You Are They" and "Just For Fun" is about as deep and economical as it gets-the latter being a wry commentary on the groups own music as they talk of "pleasing everyone" with their music and "fitting into a mold".Like the best of Stevie Wonder (and later Prince) The Jan Hammer Group actually prove here they are more then capable of playing music for any occasion.It's not a "black" or "white" sound or "rock","funk","R&B","classical',"pop" or "jazz"-actually it's a unique and distinctive combination of all five styles of music.The centerpiece of the album to me is the beautiful,transcendant "Window Of Love"-it's the kind of ballad you'd usually hear by a Stevie Wonder or Elton John but the eerie chord progressions and reverrbed drums have a sound all their own.And the lyrics,although I have my personal impressions of the lyrics it is definately being sung it is truely inspiration to someone or any people who are opressed-takes Earth Wind & Fire lyricism to almost a religious ferver.The most classical element comes on Steve Kindler's manic "Hyperspace",perhaps inspired by Jerry Goodman's wailing violin theatrics in Jan's old group Mahavisnu Orchestra.And I cannot understand why so many people I read in reviews of this band think of Kindler as a bad musician-I have never heard someone express tension and egoless playing so much yet be so theatrical at the same time.As for Hammer himself his range as a keyboardist is increbible.Of course his use of synthesizer like a spacy hard rock guitar is his best known attribute but he can play in a simpler,funkier style on moog and fender rhodes as well.And on the finale "Your Love" he displays his talents as a brilliant acoustic pianist-it's simple,economical and very beautiful and (to people who don't like pop music) will say this is the best song on the album,even with the moog flourishes.The only things I believe that kept this album from being successful and a pop chart hit were lack of familiarity with most of the musicians and one other simple fact:if Nemperor had stopped marketing the Jan Hammer Group as a jazz act then this album would likely have joined the ranks of Dark Side Of The Moonand Rumours as one of the great pop releases of the 70's.But marketing is marketing and I thank Wounded Bird for putting this out on CD.But if you like 70's pop and even if your knowledge of classic albums doesn't extend beyong what Rolling Stone magazine critics or VH1 tells you are classic albums this is more then worth your time picking up.