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Alejandro Clavijo -

November 12, 2011
For some time we knew nothing of pianist Doug Hammer and now, four years later, he surprises us with a double album that catches listeners with its variety of styles, technique and quality in every sense of the word. Travels is a double CD, presented in digipak format, with great design and surrounded by about forty small personal stories. The first CD describes places and landscapes that captivated the pianist and the second CD contains twenty totally improvised pieces. For years, Hammer continually moved from composing to improvising and the result was Travels. In Travels, melodies can be found suitable for any occasion and for any mood … touching genres like jazz and classical. Doug aims not to leave his audience unmoved, from which comes the wide range of feelings and styles that can be found on this elaborate album.
The first CD opens, as it could not be any other way, with "Travels." Vibrant and energetic, Doug makes an excellent introduction to the album by hitting chords that lift your spirits. A good way to start an album!
"The Turn of Time" is one of my favorites on this first CD. Contrary to the first theme, Hammer presents a piece full of passion and poignancy at the same time, notes that speak volumes without words. It is undoubtedly one of the best pieces of the album. Seductive!
With a beautiful waltz entry, "Country Road" is a magnificent dance of notes that carries its melody to another place. Full of romance, the music is a joyous poem to those paths traveled showing purity and beauty wherever you look. Another of my favorites!
One of the greatest pieces of Travels is "Maine Morning," a piece whose music sketches a dawn full of possibilities, full of hope and joy. The force with which he transmits his notes is one of the most powerful I've ever heard! It's easy to feel like the melody penetrates within us. It is simply incredible! Wow!
Much calmer than earlier pieces, "Days of Summer" is descriptive and dreamy. Repeating some chords in the lower range, Hammer holds our attention and fluently varies the melody with his left hand. It's great.
"Pendulum" could be considered one of the more technical pieces on the album. Without leaving behind the power and emotion harvested in previous pieces, the artist's touches of jazz are mixed with music that at times becomes passionate. It's amazing;
his album is fascinating from the very beginning.
"Reflections of a Distant Past" is sensitive and seductive with a catchy melody, the mildest composition of all those we have heard so far... a delight for the ears, with notes that touch the heart.
"Can't Go Back" is the antithesis of the above themes. With its nostalgic character, "Can't Go Back" breaks slightly with the force presented in the CD so far. It is a nice piece, but lacking the force to which we are accustomed to with Hammer.
"Moving" brings back the excitement. Filled to the last note with brightness and boldness, the vibe of "Moving" touches the listener with fast and powerful chords. Another wonder of Hammer!
"City of Dreams" is imaginative and sweet. Very quiet and intimate, Doug touches chords with a tempo grid, perfect chords that together comprise one of the most moving compositions of Travels.
Imitating the sound of the train with his left hand, Doug brings to life "Outbound Train", a theme that flows slowly, where the high notes emerge like water droplets hitting the ground. The piece breaks with a strong melody and unexpected surprises for the listener.
"The Castle" is a piece that journeys to the high range of the piano with the swaying of chords that are later transferred to the lower area. A theme that shows the power and mystery of an incredible vision.
"Lost City" is magical, tender, and personal. Doug's feelings converted into music. Very slow and thoughtful, the music comes from the highest notes of the piano with a weight that afflicts the soul. What passion! It's masterful!
Keeping the same character as the previous track, "Here With You" is one of those compositions that deserves to be heard with a loved one. Romantic, cozy and warm, its notes are a source of passion and love. I love this piece! Great, Master Hammer!
The calm after the storm is reflected in "After the Storm". Like "Days of Summer", this is a piece that creates a scene with its notes. A gray sky, where the rain has stopped falling, you can only appreciate the falling drops from the trees, a sound that Doug emulates perfectly with his piano. How easy it is to dream with music like this ...
"Whirling Dervish" is dark and mysterious where there is the letting go of low notes that closely follow a continued touch of high notes that are accelerating the melody. A time for reflection and privacy.
One of the most beautiful lullabies I've ever heard. "Jonathan's Song", is endearing and sweet, full of simplicity and love. Doug leaves behind passion with every moment that his hands come in contact with the piano. The melody becomes completely thrilling, gentle and beautiful.
Another of my favorites is "The Brightness of Days", a piece that could be the soundtrack of a blockbuster film. The charm of Doug lies in his ease of composing melodies that enter the heart with force and "The Brightness of Days" is a clear example of this.
The outcome of this wonderful and fascinating first CD is concluded with a track called "Travels (Epilogue)." A very, very tranquil piece, leaving an open ending for the listener wanting more!
After listening to this CD several times, it's easy to see how the artist has lived each piece, how his notes describe every moment of every trip. It is incredible. An album with a powerful start and a reflective finish, a nice change for the listener. Magnificent.
The second CD contains twenty improvisations that Hammer wrote while recording the first CD and it starts with "Moving On", a delicate touch of chords leads the way to a peak that never comes, that feeling of waiting is fantastic. Interesting piece!
"Back in Your Arms" is sweet and melancholy, hard to believe that it is improvised. Delicate and warm with simplicity, Hammer's hands are wrapped in one of the most sensitive songs of the album. Another piece to note in Travels.
"The Place We Once Knew" is another piece whose notes are simple enough to move the listener. The melody is repeated continuously at the top of the piano, music that will sound in the mind again and again after having been heard. Endearing.
"Glory Days" is sad, nostalgic ... to imagine Hammer playing this piece, bearing his soul in each moment, is a picture of incredible beauty. Improvisation that invites us to return our gaze to the past and remember.
Hammer plays his piano in a gospel style in "Have Faith". A slow piece but technically perfect. Another surprise of this album!
"Old Piano" is amazing! True to its name, this composition introduces the listener to a cafe of the 30's. A piano, lively and brief, with a very peculiar sound.
"Ragtime Blues", like the previous work, is a piece full of the blues rhythm and character. A masterful piano solo.
"Jekyll And Hyde", like its title, has two faces. A first, reserved and mysterious, and another full of rage and menace. Two very different melodies when united do not leave the listener unmoved.
An unexpected beginning for "Frozen Night". A deep arpeggio of notes serves as accompaniment to a bright, slow right hand melody. The arpeggio is constant, keeping the mystery until the end.
The most linear piece in regards to melody is "Here At Last". Only a few chords and some loose notes are repeated to give life to music that invites comfort and hope.
Another romantic composition of this album is "My Heart Belongs to You", a theme with feeling, where the silences are part of the tender melody. Again, a piece taken straight from the heart. Among emotional high notes sprouts beautiful music, attractive, and tender.
"My Precious One" is simple in its execution, but thanks to this naturalness, Doug gets closer to the listener with a near-perfect melody of beauty.
Following the story of the earlier piece, "Thinking of You" is another beautiful improvisation that over time gains momentum. A passionate and sincere beginning which is joined by a second, more powerful part.
"Going Home" goes on too long for the listener. A sweet melody, but repetitive and with too many pauses. Nostalgic composition.
"It'll Be Alright" breaks slightly with the latest tracks heard. On this occasion, Hammer returns to show his technical skills on the piano. In the upbeat music, the artist's hands create different melodies that match perfectly. Its title already determines what we will hear.
"Stillness" is full of calm and reflection. Very peaceful, the artist flirts with the piano after giving us a few moments of absolute peace. Absolute sensitivity!
The most minimalist piece of all is "I Am With You". So calm, so moving that every note that surfaces is enjoyed as if it were the last. In this improvisation, hands give voice to the soul of Hammer. It's great!
Memories come with images, aromas, phrases and most are remembered fondly. So is the music of "Remembrance", a piece where the moments are the calligraphy of unforgettable phrases, the ink of beautiful images. A piece full of affection.
Incessantly repeating a few chords, Doug gets a calm effect in "Marching On" with perfect, soothing, music that draws us a smile of comfort.
"In Memory" ends the album and with it, Hammer breaks the quiet character of this second CD. The pianist runs on free will and as a result, the improvisation helps us to think, to remember.
Doug Hammer gives us two and a half hours of amazing piano. In Travels we can enjoy a variety of piano pieces, full of life, melancholy, romance, and even sadness. Quite a diversity for solo piano. In Travels we can choose what we want to hear depending on our mood. Travels is very highly recommended!
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