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Steve Hahn: sh (CD, 48:05); DeeP Chocolate Productions DCP980502.
Landmark Chapman Stick work fills this release! Interesting, imaginative, introspective, engaging, and expertly crafted compositions are each executed with T. Levin, A. Johnson, G. Howard, and W. Leechford precision. The solo Stick can be and often becomes predictably repetitive and redundantly voiced, very quickly, if the Stickman isn't careful. It has wonderfully endless possibilities, though, in the right hands with the right vision. Hahn keeps you guessing and delighted with multifaceted Stick tricks.
He can be a Michael Hedges or Will Ackerman one song ("The Swans at Coole"), and a King Crimson Levin and Fripp-esque manic man on the next ("Ostinato"). Even a crystal-clear Stanley Jordan styling appears on "Suite Vignette." Hendrix would have enjoyed Hahn's overdriven, distortion-rich "Suite Intro." This was my favorite composition. It was a 5:12 mini-journey to another dimension.
The signature piece, however, is Hahn's six-movement work, "Suite," which showcases his versatility. Hahn dubs in his fine trumpet skills as well on many tracks emulating that Mark Isham genius. He plays bass and guitar, too. Matt Houston does great drums and percussion, accentuating the highly percussive Stick sound.
Aurally construct a Windham Hill release in your mind, say Isham's Vapor Drawings, augment it with, invigorate it with Hahn's Stick work. You have that perfect rainy day, capuccino-in-tummy, laid-back, drivin' or dreamin' creation spinnin' 'round now. "Hey listen -- there's a rainbow inside." Excellent recording and production. Recommended.
-- John W. Patterson - Progression #30, Winter/Spring 1999
Steve Hahn - "Native American Music Meets the Chapman
Stick" (DeeP Chocolate DCP980501, 1998, CD)
The first album by this Chapman Stick virtuoso, "Stickburst" (1994), as well as his involvement with the "Giant Tracks" tribute, have been reviewed in Harmonie Magazine #32. Two new albums have just been released simultaneously by Steve Hahn on his own label DeeP Chocolate. The first one, "Native American Music Meets The Chapman Stick" is an original work of ethno-musicology. The album is a collection of Native American songs rearranged for the Stick and accompanied by Matt Houston's percussion. It's a good opportunity to freshen up the stereotype of costumed Native Americans chanting around the fire that we generally got from western movies or documentaries. Steve's rereading, although very respectful, allow us to appreciate in a new context the musicality of those songs born in Navajo, Creek or Cherokee tribes. Here and there, he enhances the single melodies with a few discreet chords. The booklet contains some notes explaining the structure of Native American music, in particular the use of melodic lines with odd meters superimposed on binary pulsating rhythms. Very progressive indeed!
In a very different style, although making use of the same instrument, "sh" gathers a majority of material composed by the musician (all instrumentals) and whose goal is to highlight the crystalline sound of the instrument (except on "Suite Intro" on which some saturation is used). The instrumentation is built around the Stick, which takes care of the bass line, chords and melody, as well as the trumpet (sometimes), also played by Steve, and the drums by Matt Houston. Each track has a distinctive mood: Celtic (Maire Breatnach's "The Swans At Coole"), jazzy or progressive (the giantesque "12-Tone Quartet", a few crimsonian loops). Steve also composed an interesting multi-part "Suite". Its leitmotiv, based on a few chords, is arranged differently in the successive sections. Some ambient atmospheres as well as the parallel use of Stick and trumpet ("sh") sometimes echo the style of ECM albums (Eberhard Weber, Jan Garbarek). Thanks to its refined writing, "sh" simultaneously avoids the pitfalls of gratuitous technique and lifeless new age. Steve does not put the focus on his technique and suggests more than he imposes. It's a perfect album to relax after a busy day !
-- J.L. Putaux, GRENOBLE, France - Harmonie Magazine
issue #36,March 1999
"SH" - DON'T SAY IT, PLAY IT
"sh" is to quiet your soul, and let the music of Steve Hahn through, although S.H. does not always guarantee quietude.
This newly released CD by Steve's Deep Chocolate Productions features Stick solo and duo performances with his drummer/percussionist Matt Houston. Although strongly compositional, this album has a live improvised flow, one idea seeming to spawn the next.
What stands out is Steve's adventurous sense of harmonic movement and his youthful rhythm games and constructs, odd accents in odd meters between Stick and drums.
To my ears there's a consistent artistic concept at work just behind this versatile exhibition of Stick sounds and songs - Deep Coffeehouse perhaps? Or Italian art, as with Steve's thematic trumpet parts - expressive, personal, sometimes clownish and farcical.
From a rich selection of Stick tones, colors and moods, some highlights:
- Bell-like two handed Stick chords as preludes to songs 3 ["The Swans at Coole"] and 15 ["sh"].
- Odd rhythm games with alternating meters in songs 1 ["Bakedo"], 4 ["Ostinato"] and 11 ["Overture Finale"].
- Songs 6 through 11 ["Suite"] merge together as a continuous composition, with a certain leaping movement of thematic right hand triads reminding me of Marco Cerletti's, Leo Gosselin's and my own recordings.
- Perpetual harmonics struck on Stick bass and melody strings accompany lead trumpet in songs 7 ["Driving Harmonics"] and 9 ["Harmonic Bells"].
- A Baroque classical style brought up to date with disjointed rhythms in song 13 ["12-Tone Quartets"], starting modally, then with dual clashing tonalities, then bordering on atonality - takes you with him all the way.
- Live Stick improvisations, in songs 5 ["Suite Intro"] and 12 ["Suite Vignette"], battling with drums. Strange and inspired intervallic leaps in song 12, generally in Locrian modes.
- A Spanish theme in song 10 with trumpet and Stick parts create the impression of a large horn section. It reminds me of Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis and Gil Evans. Indeed its title "omiles" reveals that connection and influence.
This album is fun to listen to, never boring, not self-consciously "serious", and mainly features The Stick. It is my distinct pleasure to review "sh" (don't say it, play it).
All the Best, Emmett [Chapman] - Sticknews digest issue #020, October 1998
Hey Stickwire Folks,
I wanted to take a minute to write a formal CD review of Steve Hahn's new album "sh". I have actually had this CD for a couple weeks, but there are a lot of tunes on it and it has taken a while to digest.
This CD was released simultaneously with it's companion "Native American Music Meets the Chapman Stick". I think that this simultaneous release idea was brilliant, since these two albums each have a theme very different from each other. I'll review the Native American CD at a later time, so I can focus on "sh" here.
This is the first new CD from Steve Hahn of original music in a number of years, and I have to say that it is definately worth the wait and it covers lots of new ground, compared with "Stickburst", his last CD. The CD opens wih "Bakedo" a somewhat thorny and aggressive tune which sets the tone for the CD. Mostly duets with percussion, the works on this CD have an agitated, restless feel and are harmonically advanced, in Steve Hahn's own way. Even in the quiet moments, such as the longingly beautiful "Swans of Coole" (the only non-original tune on the CD) there is an unsettled air to the proceedings
As always, Steve's technique is astonishing and unique. Like other Stick players who are technically at that stratospheric level, he has techniques that are all his own, a unique personal sound.
The centerpiece of the album is a 6 movement "Suite" in which he extensively develops several musical ideas. My favorite piece, though is the separate "Suite Vignette" where he takes some thorny, almost atonal harmonic ideas and makes them rock! I have seen the score to this piece (in the current TouchStyle Quarterly) and seeing it all tabbed out, I realize that this is not an impossibly difficult piece to play, but hearing it for the first time on the CD it sure sounds that way! Pieces like this make you realize that in order to make a piece of music work, with that kind of advanced harmony, the rhythm has to be really happening. In Suite Vignette, the harmony, melody and rhythm are all way out there, but they form a cohesive whole, which makes it all rock. It isn't aimless free "blowing".
All of the pieces are really advanced, compositionally, but special mention goes to "12 Tone Quartets" which features some nice overdubbed trumpet ensembles, along with some quirky Stick work. Theres also a moving elegaic improvisation based on Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings".
In summary, let me say this is not an easy listening new age record, rather a great Stick record with forward looking compositions. If you liked "Stickburst" this is more music from the same player, but 5 years more advanced.
-- Ray Ashley, Hopewell, NJ - Stickwire, July 1998
Hey Stickwire Tappers,
Before I sign off for summer vacation, I have one more CD review to file. This one is for Steve Hahn's "Native American Music Meets The Chapamn Stick"
Steve also recently released an album called "sh" which was mostly solo compositions. That album featured some adventurous but rewarding listening. This CD is completely different, but still rewading to the listener. It features Chapman Stick arrangements of nine Native American songs and dances. Steve researched these pieces from the music of the Navaho, Creek, Yurok, Tolowa and Cherokee Peoples.
The first question that comes to mind is "is this album worth doing?". Is there a reason to play Native dances on the Stick? I believe that this CD does work, and serves the purpose of stating these pieces of music in a language that is clear to the western listener. The rhythms that some of these pieces use is unlike anything I have heard before, with rapid meter changes that would make a veteran prog rocker run for cover.
Harmonically, on the other hand, the album speaks in a clear tonal language that is relaxing and not "far out". Steve's clear ringing Stick tone seems, to me, to be the perfect medium for this music. He uses some slides and bends to mimic some of the microtonal aspects of the works. The CD comes with an informative booklet that describes the origins of the music. This information is also available on Steve's web site:
There is a beautiful simplicity to all these pieces, and constructive repetitiveness, as well. It is important to remember that long before Glass, Reich, et. al. , there was excellent minimalist music being practiced by native peoples all over the World in their roundhouses as all night ceremonies were practiced.
While some of these pieces suggest hypnotic trance music, others, like the "Corn Grinding Songs" and "Woman's Brush Dance", celebrate the joy of everyday life. Percussionist Matt Houston uses a wide variety of implements to help give each track a distinctive tone color.
In Summary, this is a really nice album which compliments Steve's "sh' very well. This is relaxing but thoughtful music. I would be intersted in knowing how a Native American musician would react to this CD. I hope it would be a positive reaction, because I think that the CD helped to give me a better understanding of this music.
Ordering info is on Steve's web site. There is a Transcription of the "Gar Dance" in this month's TouchStyle Quarterly. It isn't too hard and uses interplay between the two registers in an interesting way.
-- Ray Ashley, Hopewell, NJ - Stickwire, July 1998