Review: Doug Hammer: Haiku
by Kathy Parsons
Haiku is the eighth solo release by pianist/composer Doug Hammer (not counting his 2014 duet with Amethyste, Secret World, or his inclusion in several compilations). In the crowded field of contemporary pianists, Hammer stands out as one of the best, whether he is playing a gentle, ethereal piece or letting loose in a honky-tonk or gospel style – Doug Hammer can do it all! As its title suggests, Haiku is mostly gently understated solo piano plus one piano and cello duet.
Perfect In Simplicity
Most of the fifteen original pieces are relatively short (2-4 minutes), perfect in their simplicity, expressing a wide variety of emotions and experiences. The piano sound is gorgeous, crystal clear and ringing in the upper registers with deep, rich bass in the lower end. This is wonderful music for relaxation, inspiration, and exceptional musical enjoyment! Pianists will be happy to know that there is a companion sheet music book for Haiku in both printed and PDF formats, available from Doug’s site.
Haiku begins with “Possibility,” a lovely piece that expresses optimism and anticipation – and then trails off at the dreamy end. “Flight” is fascinating. It starts out very simply with slowly repeated intervals, very gradually picking up speed as it continues to repeat the intervals. The simple melody weaves in and out as the intervals suggest the flapping of birds’ wings (there must be several birds flying together!). Near the end, the piece returns to the slower rhythm, ending with a gentle broken chord. “Wind” expresses a different kind of movement, swirling and dancing as it goes. “Glorious” has a quiet majesty that is punctuated by notes in the deep bass of the piano – a favorite.
Expressing Inner Peace
I also really like the poignant grace of “Dancing.” “Sway” is a bit of a surprise (a welcome one!) with its rhythmic funkiness. This isn’t a fast piece, but the joyful energy is infectious – love those deep bass notes! The title track has a Japanese flavor in its harmonies and simplicity. Very quiet and peaceful, it’s a beauty! “Heartstring” is an elegant and stirring duet for piano and cello (Velleda Miragias). Expressing inner peace as well as passionate emotion, piano and cello is one of my very favorite combinations! “Rise” is the longest track on the album, and also the most ambient. Very open and spacious, the easy flow gives the piece plenty of room to breathe. “Neverending” brings this excellent album to a quiet and tranquil close, leaving the listener feeling refreshed and uplifted.
Doug Hammer has created another truly exceptional piano album with Haiku! It is available from www.DougHammer.net, Amazon, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!