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To Be Continued... by Ken Hatfield

Ken Hatfield’s To Be Continued... is notable for several reasons. For one thing, composer Bill McCormick, who had dropped from public awareness for much too long, is back by composing all of the music for his former student’s, Ken Hatfield’s, new CD (which McCormick produced). For another, To Be Continued... offers the infrequent opportunity to jazz played on the nylon-string guitar, Hatfield’s instrument of choice. With a lower volume, unamplified and unaltered similar to the style of Brazilian guitarists, Hatfield’s technique creates a softer sound that encourages close listening, in contrast to the extroverted force of the electric guitar. In addition, To Be Continued... contains the results of McCormick’s and Hatfield’s decisions to assemble a highly professional group of experienced jazz musicians who obviously are comfortable performing with one another as they enjoy the music written especially for them.

While Hatfield doesn’t ignite the out-of-control fires that a steel guitar sometimes does, his work does smolder and then burn, as the first track, "The Spirit of Soul," proves. Though McCormick’s piece starts with a four-bar seven-four introduction, it soon moves into minor blues in three that begins invitingly enough, particularly when Hatfield contributes his own technically astounding solo, which turns up the heat. Saxophonist (and sound engineer) Jim Clouse takes the cue and increases the intensity of the piece, aided in no small amount by the rhythm section and especially Steve Kroon’s percussion. Eventually, the entire group cooks at the outro with the repetition of the final four bars. The percussiveness of the quintet, cannily developed, suits that feel of Hatfield’s playing well for he does recall Latin guitarists with the clarity of his tone, as "Memories of a Dream" confirms with its intimations of "How Insensitive."

But McCormick’s intentions were to develop a varied repertoire for Hatfield’s recording, and so "I’m Movin’ to Cool Breeze City" virtually percolates with joyous playing , bright and fun, as Clouse performs the swinging melody over blues changes. With a subtle tribute to Wes Montgomery, "El Camino Wes" reminds one of his influence while Hatfield makes the tune in his own direction, abetted as always by his exemplary rhythm section that heightens the piece’s infectiousness.

And then, so that the listener can appreciate the unembellished beauty of Hatfield’s ability to extract the essence of a song, he performs the relative short "Pastorale" solo and the equally brief "Mystery Ship," performed as a duo. In a year of some exceptional guitar albums, such Lionel Loueke’s, Ken Hatfield’s To Be Continued... stands out too as a personalized statement arising from his own individualistic technique and the compositions of Bill McCormick for the CD.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ken Hatfield
  • CD Title: To Be Continued...
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: M/Pub
  • Tracks: The Spirit of Soul, Memories of a Dream, I’m Movin’ to Cool Breeze City, Mystery Ship, To Be Continued, The Persistence of Saudade, Pastorale, El Camino Wes
  • Musicians: Ken Hatfield (guitar), Jim Clouse (soprano & tenor saxophone), Hans Glawischnig (bass), Dan Weiss (drums), Steve Kroon (percussion)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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