[Gentle Giant tribute] Giant Tracks contributor Steve Hahn is quite the multi-instrumentalist: a proficient guitarist, bassist, trumpeter and now Chapman Stick performer. Hahn studied with jazz great Alphonso Johnson after being selected as one of but twelve individuals, out of many applicants, for a Jazz Studies Fellowship from the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts). Hahn performs almost entirely on Stick on sh, and adds trumpet, while Matt Houston plays drums & percussion—Houston also has quite the resume, having played with numerous jazz artists & orchestras. Hahn is also responsible for an innovation called the Trumpet PedalStand which allows for the mounting of a trumpet in a stationary position for ease of playing without releasing a hand (or two) from the Stick.
sh runs the gamut of forceful ("Bakedo") & delicate ("The Swans At Coole"), Hahn deriving those textures the Stick is typically known for, channelling melodies & rhythms concurrently; for those wondering if any comparisons to Tony Levin or Greg Howard can be drawn, Hahn has pretty much made the Stick his own. Pieces like "Ostinato" (one of my favorites) could have been conceptualized by a player like Levin—though his delivery would have doubtlessly been much different—while the "Suite Intro" (ditto, which, yes, is the prelude to the following six tracks) is uniquely Hahn with its grating, probing, distorted lines. Meter shifts galore, "Suite" is a fourteen-minute long set of six connected tracks; the intricacies & textures derived within the second part, "Driving Harmonics," recall Philharmonie's multi-layers and melodic beauty, thrusting beyond the simplicity of mere triads. "omiles" (lower case o), the penultimate four-minute section, is more percussive in nature and Hahn does execute some simultaneous Stick/trumpet notes. "Suite Vignette" is an afterword, one of the most adventurous and aggressive cuts, with definite Levinisms—
some of the most uniquely-"Stick" tones ever heard emerge here.
"12-Tone Quartets" & "Improvisation on Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings " are wonderfully classically-flavored, the former featuring more Stick/trumpet duality, the latter an interpretation. The title track, "sh," is the closer, a fine reemphasis on tonal arcs and fervent playing as espoused by the music of this album. sh is a fine example of craftsmanship, and the Chapman Stick's popularity and (along with its users) predisposition for unbound versatility is unceasing.