Album Reviews

Chuck Hammer

Blind On Blind

Artist:     Chuck Hammer

Album:     Blind On Blind

Label:     AVA Interact

Release Date:     06/01/2016


Guitarist/producer Chuck Hammer’s early work with Lou Reed’s great late ’70s-early ’80s bands, and later on David Bowie’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), remains in many ways the true north for the contemporary textural guitar movement. Of his first release in eight years, Blind On Blind, he says, “It took me three years to complete, but I’m finally satisfied enough with the result to release it. And thankfully everyone else is happy too—these guys are not easily pleased!”

These not-easily-pleased guys are renowned musicians who contributed to the album – drummer Billy Martin of Martin, Medeski and Wood, keyboardist Jamie Saft, veteran of John Zorn jazz fusion bands, and Jamaaladeen Tacuma, bassist in Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time outfits. Hammer’s concept for Blind On Blind, and the wink-wink behind the double-entendre title, called for these world-class dudes to lay down tracks while never being in the same room at the same. Hammer would add guitars and edit together a musical collage from separate recording spaces discretely, or as they say in poker “on the blind.”

The overall effect of Hammer and his collaborators calls to mind a twenty-first century version of Miles Davis’ 1969-70 Bitches Brew sessions that featured Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin and Chick Corea, among others, to many listeners, the highest achievement of the jazz-rock groove, and the birthplace of at least three major fusion units, including Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever.

The album’s third cut, the 7:46 “Snow Blind Twilight,” is a prime example of the pleasures Hammer’s blind collaborative process is capable of yielding. A preamble of percussion and Rhodes electric piano sets the groove, teased along by congas and washes of horror film organ, finally joined by Hammer’s guitar textures – playing over and under and along with the Rhodes and conga and using vibrato and sustain and every bent note like an expert skier easing down a mountain. The jam is anchored and expanded and beautifully unified.

Chuck Hammer has been credited with nailing—if not outright inventing—a certain piece of textural sonic real estate and doing it really early. Throughout this recording, he and his collaborators deliver intense, sometimes unexpected sonic and rhythmic pleasure, and through his innovative process of layered free-fusion-groove improvisation, open up or hint at a new, uncategorized musical landscape.

—Peter Jurew

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