Sometimes a certain casually written line in a review can turn out to be prescient. At the tail end of my write-up on Sketches in Jazz, legendary composer/keyboardist Jan Hammer’s remarkable 2020 return to his 70s jazz roots, I wrote, “When you listen, by no means should you ever forget ‘Miami Vice’ or his vast 45 year catalog. Just keep an open mind that Hammer will always be full of grand sonic surprises.”
Then – Bam! He’s back gracing us with Seasons, Pt. 2, a generous 14 track, sonically and rhythmically eclectic follow-up to his equally cinematic 2018 set Seasons, Vol.1. The fun of the first set was its full throttle embrace of all the vibes that have made Hammer an innovator – percussive prog rock, classical, pop, jazz and ambient/new age music, easing and darting from mood to mood to create multi-textured soundscapes reflective of the four seasons.
Hammer infuses Pt. 2 with similar sweeping grandeur, offering us the perfect summer song with the lighthearted, easy funk and jazzy piano driven “Summer Solstice” and the fascinating synth fired top down driving tune “Black Diamond Run" – and then giving us ample space to contemplate the mysteries of nature on the relaxing, tenderly orchestrated “Suite Atmosphere.” Hammer’s seasonal journey takes us everywhere from trippy electronic realms (via the hypnotic “Sonar Song”) to the fascinating, ominous and crackling rock fired -exploration of an intense “Electric Storm.”
The artful sonic architect also titillates with a thematically relevant blast from the past, the soulful, seductive “Codename Ruby Theme” from a 1996 Czech drama film – which may remind longtime contemporary jazz fans of The Rippingtons’ 80’s classic “Dreams.” Yet the true emotional core of Seasons Pt. 2 are three tracks directly inspired by Hammer’s deep concern about global warming – the lively, whimsical and infectiously melodic easy groove driven “Waves,” the haunting, classical and prog rock tinged guitar burner “Empathy” and especially, the new age/rock fusion jam “Oceans and Continents,” which feels like a soundtrack to the collective anxiety we’re all feeling about the climate situation and impending disasters.
The tune’s drum fills perhaps reflect the human action continuously required to combat the darkening reality and make the planet more livable. Or maybe Hammer’s just sharing his view on the chaos that continues as we battle the powers that be over renewable energy. Whatever his intention, it’s truly the most fascinating piece on a roster of incredibly compelling gems.
As seasons come and go, here’s hoping these first two Seasons volumes are the beginning of a long series of fresh sonic adventures.