JAN HAMMER
OH YEAH? Nemperor NE 437: Magical Dog,
One To One; Evolove, Oh, Yeah?; Bambu Forest
Twenty One; Let The Children Grow; Red And Orange

Personnel: Hammer, electric piano, synthesizers,
timbales, vocals; Steven Kindler, acoustic and
electric violin, rhythm guitar, Fernando Saunders, bass
piccolo bass, vocals, Tony Smith, drums, lead vocals

* * * *
When Jeff Beck recently toured with the Jan Hammer Group, only a handful of his expectant audience realized beforehand that the eminent guitarist was tagging along, respecting Hammer's choices in personnel and material, and for the first time since his association with Rod Stewart, sharing the stage with Jan's mutually rousing talent. What must have begun as a gamble ended as a double blessing, for Beck not only benefited immeasurably from Hammer's exhortations, but also helped Jan to reach a wider audience than would have been possible on his own. And Hammer is an artist whose time has surely come, one of the foremost, fertile minds in the mutable fusion field.

Oh, Yeah?, Hammer's third effort for Nemperor and his first with a group, is his most mature and compelling statement to date, ceaselessly propulsive and uncommonly colorful. The pliant rhythm section proves to be the ideal instrument for Hammer's unflagging energy and diversity, and in violinist Stephen Kindler, Jan has found a compatible, adroit foil, sparking the joyful spontaneity missing from his post-Mahavishnu Orchestra recorded work Indeed, with Oh, Yeah? Hammer comes closer to capturing the verve of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra than any of his former colleagues recent product, which underscores how indispensable he was to their collective, innovative sound.

From the alternating bombastic and serene imagery of "Magical Dog" to the arcane, sinewy introduction to "Bambu Forest" Hammer effectively manages to vary the fabric of the arrangements and texture of the instrumental voicings, often in the minute span of a wink. He never crowds nor obscures the sound, even when double-tracking violins over a compound of corpulent keyboards. With the sole exception of the perfunctory vocal tracks ("One To One" and "Let The Children Grow"), Oh,Yeah? Is a resounding confirmation of Hammer's enduring relevancy. And yet, as good as it gets, it is a cautious sketchbook compared to the band's live show. If Nemperor and/or Epic fail to release a live Beck/Hammer album, it will be one of the years more serious omissions. - gilmore