Stereo Review


Jan Hammer Group,  MELODIES
Nemperor JZ 35003

Recording: Excellent
Performance: Excellent

To me, the music has always spoken louder than words; and this quartet is definitely unabashed about playing and saying exactly what they feel. These four musicians are passionately in love with the music, as is evident by their ability to play literally anything from classical to pure funk. Which, when seriously considered; itís just about as broad a spectrum imaginable.

Vocals by drummer Tony Smith and Detroit's own Fernando Saunders are both powerful and sensitive. There Is not one weak spot on this album. And this is extremely rare under any circumstances.

Jan Hammer once again demonstrates his total mastery over all recent developments in the electronic keyboard idiom. Not to mention the beautifully compelling "Your Love," written and performed by Hammer on the acoustic piano, synthesizers, mellotron, and assisted by Steve Kindler on violin. Kindlerís performance on the album is reserved, with the exception of "Hyperspace," which he wrote, and serves as a perfect vehicle for his talents.

Tony Smith shows us the true meaning of what a professional drummer is all about. His playing at times seems deceptively simple. But upon closer examination, one realizes that the ease with which he plays sometimes disguises his flowing, thoughtful complicated style.

Fernando Saunders is by far the most impressive addition to Hammers' group, with his flawless performance and impeccable bass tone. His knowledge and use of guitar, cello, electric piccolo base, the bass itself. and vocal work can leave us with but one thought; we'll all be. hearing a lot more of this man in the near future.

If you donít want to miss out on one of the more important performances of today's music, I'd pick up this album immediately (JOD) 


Jan Hammer/Melodies/
Nemperor JZ 35003

This man's list of credits is incredible. With John McLaughlin, he formed the first edition of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He was a strong catalyst in the resurgence of Jeff Beck's career, composing, producing and playing. He is a piano player who is actually known more for his synthesizer than anything else.

Melodies is a radical departure from anything he's ever attempted. "I'd been asking myself what's wrong with today's music," Hammer states. His answer is the album's title. "l was coming to the end of the road with jazz/rock, even though people were copying it. There are only so many years you can milk out of a the average listener it is just a lot of notes, being played very fast, they can't sing along to it. I'm tired of it. I just skip those things that sound too busy. I want to write and play music that holds my interest, that's the only way I can expect to hold other people's interest.

The result is his first pop record. He sees it as a more direct form of communication with the audience, short melodic vehicles for himself and drummer Tony Smith, violinist Steve Kindler, and bassist Fernando Saunders. There are no guitars. "I cannot accept a steady diet of a group that includes guitars."

Melodies is eleven tracks with only two instrumentals. All four band members sing. Hammer wrote the music. Ivona Reich, his wife, wrote the lyrics.  It should be a big surprise to a lot of people, especially the jazz fans. They just won't believe it.