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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Two from Kettle Hole Records

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Last year (yes the year of the pandemic, which unfortunately is still around) the duo Gerrit Hatcher and Jakob Warmenbol was the biggest surprise, at least for my ears, making into my top ten list. This made me look into Gerrit Hatcher’s discography more and especially his small independent label, Kettle Hole records.

Gerrit Hatcher Group – The Good Instinct of the Morning (Kettle Hole Records, 2020) ****1⁄2

The Gerrit Hatcher Group feels like a super group in small scale improvisational music. Consisting of Hatcher on tenor sax, Ben Lamar Gay on cornet, Katie Ernst on bass, Keefe Jackson again on tenor sax and Julian Kirshner on drums. This quintet balances in a very productive way between melody, composition and improvisation. Following the trajectory of Ornette’s contribution to modern jazz, they are trying to distill his important teachings on what is music through a good time approach. Being true to the title they chose, they present us four tracks that clock nearly on thirty five minutes, of energetic, upbeat free jazz that comes directly from first period free jazz in the ‘60’s.

Their music in all tracks is pure joy. Joy of listening but also the joy of expressing both individually and collectively. The wind instruments are in the forefront of the mix. The two saxes provide melodic lines and sometimes burst of joyful noise –clearly all three of them were having a good time…In a total Ornetteian mood the rhythm section follows a path of its own, still, though, managing to produce and a solid backbone for the music. And how good is Kirshner (now another excursion into his discography should I start) on his polyrhythmic barrage of noises.

In all four tracks of the cd (it is also available as a cassette for you fetishists) there’s a constant explosion of feelings and individual voices that takes place from the first second you start to listen. This is soulful sentimental music that has neither time frame nor age. It exists to give pleasure and solace to the lucky listener.

Gerrit Hatcher – Knowledge About the Future  (Kettle Hole Records, 2020) ****1⁄2

Hatcher’s solo record proves to us that he can choose a totally different approach on the tenor sax than the one he picks while playing collectively. In any case his solo excursion posed more questions than answers to me. Be it that I’m not technically skilled or that every time a solo recording is something totally different, I find myself in a position of trying to unlock the mysteries of the musician’s intentions. That can be misleading sometimes because it distances you from the simple fact of listening to the music.

The music here, on Knowledge About the Future, might be short but it is dense and the effort of playing is quite audible in every second of this recording. The cd is divided into seven tracks –some of them small enough to be called snippets- but It seems to me like one long track that, quite simply, consisted of all that could take place during a live performance. The pauses, bigger stops, shortage of breath, better endurance, blowing hard, trying to manipulate the reed, make it sound differently. I found a very down to Earth human quality on all this. As improvisation has taught us in the long history of its existence, the finished product doesn’t have to be polished -a commodity to sell. I love it when I can tell about how hard making music can, what a challenge it is, the energy and strength (not in a macho way but mostly mentally) it requires.

The two recordings showed me two totally different sides of Hatcher’s music. Dig in.



Ken Blanchard said...

"In a total Ornetteian mood"! I am willing to wager that this collection of words has never occurred before. Yet the phenomenon it describes is very familiar to me.