Jun 21, 2013
Some musicians kill time on the road playing video games or checking out local color. Ken Hatfield kills time before gigs reading.
Often Hatfield tries to relate the material he is reading to his music, seeking internal rhythms, interesting themes or using a book as a jumping off point for creativity. Earlier this year he fulfilled one of his fondest wishes by releasing For Langston, a song cycle he wrote based on the poetry of the great Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes.
Hatfield, who plays with a distinctive sound from his use of nylon strings on his guitar, assembled a strong sextet to tackle the material he had written over the years. His frequent collaborator Jamie Baum, played alto flute and joined a rhythm section of. percussionist Steve Kroon, drummer Jeff Hirshfield and bassist Hans Glawischnig,
The key to the project’s success, however, may have been the addition of singer Hilary Gardner, who tackled the formidable task of giving voice to Hughes’ words. Ms. Gardner may be more familiar to Broadway fans from her role in Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away or Alternative Rock listeners who caught her on Moby’s Wait For Me. Despite her lack of jazz credentials, her soprano voice adds the tone that is crucial to reimagining the sound of Hughes’ work, allowing the band, and Hatfield’s guitar in particular, to create something new and exciting.
Given that Hughes is an African-American icon associated with New York, and Hatfield is a white man born below the Mason-Dixon line, there has been some criticism of For Langston. We talk about those criticisms, as well as his creative approach to the poetry in Podcast 353. The Podcast can be downloaded here, and features music from the CD, including:
Ken Hatfield – “Argumentum Ornithologicum – Sixth Movement “ from String Theory.
Ken Hatfield – “Dream Boogie”, “Jazzonia”, and “Poem to a Dead Solider” from For Langston.