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The Surrealist Table by Ken Hatfield Trio

Why Ken Hatfield is not a more recognized name is a mystery. He occupies a rather small space in jazz, being a guitarist who devotes himself exclusively to the nylon-string guitar; he has a writing style that is intriguing, heartfelt and accessible, and a playing style that somehow manages to blend some of the Latin elements of Charlie Byrd with the traditional side of Wes Montgomery and the more abstract touch of Ralph Towner. With The Surrealist Table, his fifth release as a leader, Hatfield is creating a unique sound, and a unique approach that clearly deserves a wider audience.

Rounding out the trio are bassist Hans Glawischnig, who has accompanied Hatfield on all his recordings, and drummer Jeff Hirshfield who, with over eighty recordings to his credit with artists as diverse as Fred Hersch, Harold Danko and John Abercrombie, has the breadth of skill to fit into any context. Together the three musicians create a sound that is often-times delicate and always full of surprises.

Hatfield has dedicated himself to the nylon-string acoustic guitar and composition since the mid-1990s, before that performing with artists including Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, Harold Mabern and Chico Hamilton in more traditional settings. But it has been since making the singular decision to exploring the possibilities of this one instrument that he has begun to develop a personal voice and musical language that distinguishes him from a multitude of other jazz guitarists.

Whether it is on the funky "Funkissimo," the brooding "Berceuse," the Latin-inflected "Castalia," or the bluesy "Most Every Day," which hints at the influence of Lenny Breau, another guitarist who spent much time on the nylon-string guitar, Hatfield plays with a lyricism that belies his obviously broad technique. With songs that are sometimes romantic, and other times slightly elliptical; whether playing warm single-note lines or rich finger-picked chordal passages, Hatfield’s compositional and playing approach is always understated, often approaching the sublime. Glawischnig and Hirshfield are simpatico players, providing a perfect rhythmic layer over which Hatfield can pursue his muse.

Hatfield’s inspirations extend beyond the guitar; "Ariadne’s Thread" has a direct line to Bill Evans and, specifically, "Waltz for Debbie"; but Hatfield’s roots are well subsumed into his own style, and are cited more for reference. The Surrealist Table is another recording from an artist who, by making specific career choices, has developed into a distinctive voice from whom more will most certainly be heard.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ken Hatfield Trio
  • CD Title: The Surrealist Table
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Arthur Circle Music
  • Musicians: Ken Hatfield, guitar, leader, composer. Jeff Hirschfield, drums. Hans Glawischnig, bass.
  • Rating: Four Stars
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