"A Year-End Jazz Discovery: New York Trumpeter Arnold Hammerschlag" by Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, December 18, 2015.
Gapplegate Music Review by Grego Applegate Edwards, January 25, 2016
Stuart Kremsky Review, June 2016
Press Release for “No Face, No Name” - Skirl Records #030
Release date: July 21, 2015
On his long-awaited second release, No Face, No Name, trumpeter/composer Arnold Hammerschlag blends influences from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America with cinematic scope and wide-ranging jazz invention. The album, out now on Skirl Records, features ten original compositions that offer Hammerschlag’s unique twist on a mash-up of folk traditions, performed by an unconventional ensemble: Sam Bardfeld (violin), Will Holshouser (accordion), Brian Glassman (bass), and Aaron Alexander (drums).
“The idea behind the album is that each composition is like a painting in a museum,” Hammerschlag says. “All together they make up an exhibition – a whole world.”
Hammerschlag originally conceived the project under the title “Songs From Sun, Sand and Stone,” an evocative concept that illustrates the way that his music conjures landscapes. These compositions bring to mind at once the actual places where the trumpeter’s inspirations originated and an imaginary terrain where all of them overlap and dissolve into one another: the vivid Klezmer-meets-rock of “Boat Float,” the title track’s summoning a Middle Eastern crossroads café, a bridge between Brahms and Piazzolla on “Jo.”
The unusual quintet was born from Hammerschlag’s experience playing in a wedding band led by Klezmer- jazz pioneer Greg Wall. “In the space of one wedding we would play several different styles of Jewish, Israeli and Yemenite music, along with sets of jazz and rock and roll and top 40,” the trumpeter recalls. No Face, No Name places those sudden shifts in tone within the space of a single composition, often layering one style atop another to create bold and original juxtapositions.
The title No Face, No Name is derived from a Zen Buddhist koan relating to the practice of contemplating one’s face before birth, a spiritual grounding for the blank but richly loaded slate from which Hammerschlag approaches his compositions. It’s also a playful nod at the fresh start provided by the twelve-year wait since his debut CD, Sailing Neptune’s Waters. The mesmerizing piece “Slow Road,” with its suggestion of a mysterious caravan wending its way through an unchanging desert landscape, thus becomes something of a mission statement: “It’s an analogy for a journey that unfolds gradually over time,” Hammerschlag explains. “Most of the things I’m interested in – meditation, composition, tai chi – can’t be hurried. You grow with them over a lifetime.”
Hammerschlag’s journey began in Seattle, where he came of musical age alongside fellow jazz originals like Jim Black, Cuong Vu, Andrew D’Angelo, and Chris Speed. He studied under Jerry Granelli, Julian Priester, Jay Clayton, and Jim Knapp at Cornish College of the Arts, where he co-founded the ahead-of-its-time band Timebone. Hammerschlag arrived in New York City in 1994, where he’s since worked with a host of artists including Greg Wall, Matt Darriau, Michel Gentile, Owen Howard, Pete Epstein, Alex Harding, Tricia Woods, Chris Komer, Brent Arnold, Katie Down and Phil Haynes.
“Further definitions of new music, composed, free, and in between. Occasional journeys into the maelstrom, tempered by Hammerschlag's eye of the hurricane trumpet classicism.”
-- Andrew Freund (5/4 Jazz Magazine)
Reviews for Sailing Neptune's Waters
Trumpeter Arnold Hammerschlag's liner notes to Sailing Neptune's Waters sketch out his intriquingly offbeat, multidisciplinary career, which has included stints at Sophia Delza's T'ai-Chi Ch'uan studio at Carnegie Hall and the Karme Choling Meditation Center in Vermont. It's thus no surprise that he finds analogies for his compositions in terms of another artform: he says that he thought of them as pieces for an "imaginary theater space." The band's improbable instrumentation (trumpet, flute, piano and drums) gives the music an enjoyable off-kilter feeling, almost as if it was an ad-hoc assemblage. Iverson has the most difficult role here, of course, given the absence of a bassist: on tunes like "Swish" (dedicated to Mozart) and "Ornette" (dedicated to . . . Billy Strayhorn?!) his left hand splits the difference between mock-classical formality and clunky barrelhouse rhythms. Often it's the pianist who gives the pieces their momentum, while Howard's light, slinky drumming seasons the music rather than propels it. This is a winningly idiosyncratic disc which suggests that the trumpeter possesses a gentle, likeably skewed sensibility: it ends beautifully with the quirky gospel piano fo "Tom's Junkyard," dedicated to Tom Waits.
ARNOLD HAMMERSCHLAG GROUP - Sailing Neptune's Waters (SMR # 121) This features Arnold on trumpet, Michel Gentile on flute, Ethan Iverson on piano and Owen Howard on drums. Recently local jazz piano wiz Ethan Iverson's trio The Bad Plus have garnered much praise and press since signing with Sony which seems to have no more jazz department. After a half dozen often ignored releases on the Fresh Sounds New Talent label, why does the public begin to notice his great piano trio? Mainly because they have been covering rock tunes from bands like Nirvana. This is certainly an interesting development. Can't say that I've heard of Arnold or Michel before this, but I do recognize (drummer) Mr. Howard from a fine release he had out a few years back as a leader. Mr. Hammerschlag moved here from Seattle in 1994 and composed all of the tunes on this fine cd. It is always a challenge to have a project without using a bassist, but it is not so uncommon nowadays. Each piece is dedicated to a different person, three well known musicians/composers and three friends of Arnold's. "Swish" opens and is dedicated to Mozart. Ethan plays gnarly main theme while the trumpet and flute sail somberly on top taking soft swirling solos. "Dance Piece #5" is a suspenseful and spacious piece for floating spirits, with minimal haunting sounds on a delicate cushion of silence, which builds to a brooding, swirling conclusion. There is more hushed elegance on "Lady in Black" where the trumpet and flute play the exquisite, melancholy melody as Ethan also plays his drifting chords as punctuation. The flute, trumpet and piano all take lovely warm-toned solos here, rich and quite lyrical. The title tune is a dreamy, drifting piece for more floating spirits, with luscious, graceful piano, grand mallet work, sad and beautiful trumpet and flute moving in somber waves together. Arnold names a piece "Ornette" and then dedicates it to Billy Strayhorn, it is a busy, challenging and quick paced piece which keeps each member of the quartet locked into its difficult scheme with fast, inspired solos from the flute, trumpet and piano and Owen's spinning drums pushing throughout. The final piece is "Tom's Junkyard" for Tom Waits and it is another somber piece for mainly duo sections of flute and drums with some piano and trumpet gliding through. It is a sort-of ballad which just hangs in the air and then floats away. Nice. Overall, this is a fine break from some of the intense fireworks of other aforementioned downtown releases this week. CD release for $14.
Downtown Music Gallery