Here's a musician who has been branded with a number of musical styles. With nine CDs behind him, Gabriel Mark Hasselbach shows great versatility. Having heard of his reputation as a smooth-jazz performer, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Swingin' Affair that is very much in the time-honored jazz mainstream. It swings! Born in Denver, Colorado, the multi-instrumentalist makes his home on Canada's west coast, specifically Vancouver, British Columbia. On this CD, Hasselbach recruited two Vancouver vocalists to share the studio session. The British Columbia born Nancy Ruth and the California born Dee Daniels are well known in Canada for their CDs. Nancy Ruth's It's Got To Be Love and Dee Daniels' Love Story and Feel So Good were very well received by both critics and jazz fans.
Hasselbach is the epitome of versatility. He plays flute, alto flute, trumpet, flugelhorn and valve trombone. The surprise is that he seamlessly switches and makes each axe appear as his favorite. Hasselbach is also part of Tom Lavin's Powder Blues, a band that Canadians and the rest of the world have loved since 1978. From the opening strains of Horace Silver's "Senor Blues" to the closer, Satchmo's "A Kiss To Build A Dream On", the Hasselbach quartet cooks passionately. The group's reading of "Easy Living" is, to this reviewer, a showpiece. Hasselbach switches back and forth between muted trumpet and alto flute. The soloist's fresh approach rivals the appeal of my longtime favorite version by John Lewis and Bill Perkins. Gabriel Mark Hasselbach's talents stretch out into the world of composition. His Latin tinged "El Tapatico" is both exciting and memorable. Vocalist Dee Daniels and Hasselbach collaborated on "Kiss Me Baby." The fiery, rocker is a great vehicle for Daniel's four octave chops. Pianist Andy Weyl and the rhythm section get a workout. Swingin' Affair has been in the house for three weeks and is already a favorite. It's a flawless performance by a group that's "very-together." Five stars!