By Cynthia Mullis
photos by Carolyn Caster

(A big congratulations to Jon Hamar for receiving the Earshot Golden Ear Award for Emerging Artist!)

On Wednesday, January 16th, I went to Tula’s to attend the release party for bass player Jon Hamar’s new CD Here After.  I have to say that it’s to its credit that Tula’s has eliminated blender drinks from their menu. And why, do you ask, is this suddenly an important revelation? Well, mainly because it would be an otherwise unfortunate place for an acoustic bass player to have a CD release party! As it was, there were no Margaritas and Pina Coladas to interfere with this quiet, intimate CD release party for bassist Hamar and his trio. Of course, the phone rang during an acapella bass solo, raising a slight chuckle in the audience, but I for one was grateful for the chance to hear Hamar’s music with little interference. As a result it was a very satisfying experience.

Wednesday’s audience was a modest but appreciative assembly of friends, family, students from Cornish and Central Washington University, not to mention a few bass players. On stage were pianist Dawn Clement and Byron Vannoy on drums. The three musicians were locked in and sounded like they’ve spent a lot of time playing together. Jon and Dawn had a special simpatico and Byron is a perfect complement to the two. Dawn and Byron are also featured on Jon’s new recording Here After, in addition to John Hansen, Jon Wikan, Hans Teuber and Dan Tyack.

I enjoyed hearing Jon put his musical concept out front as a leader. By the nature of the gig, the evening was filled with arco and pizzicato melodies and bass solos. Along with well-played lead lines and solos, Jon played the role of chamber musician, supplied walking bass lines and provided some interesting vamps with the piano behind several drum solos. I also really enjoyed the two original acapella numbers that Jon did at the end of the first set, Bucket of Phat and Theme for Francis, which is the opening tune of his CD. The main focus of the evening was on selections from Here After, and after listening to the CD at home, it was cool to hear these tunes played live. Other highlights included Dawn Clement’s wicked arrangement of Sweet and Lovely, a two-key version of Isfahan, Everything I Love, Lucky Southern, and a Charlie Haden tune.

Jon Hamar is a busy musician in the area and can be heard with a who’s-who of the Seattle jazz scene. I’ve performed with Jon in numerous situations and I’ve always appreciated his clean, clear bass lines that take care of business while at the same time being inventive, melodic and hugely swinging. Jon has an excellent command of the bass that is served by a well-disciplined classical technique. His playing is light and crisp with a beautiful clear tone. I was looking forward to hearing his efforts as a leader both on the CD and live with his trio since I value his supportive role as a rhythm section player. I can personally attest that his new CD is deserving of the attention that it has been getting. It is worth a serious listen with a good set of headphones to absorb all of the rich trio interplay and excellent musicianship, and it was definitely worth the trip to hear these tunes performed live in this trio setting at Tula’s.

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Golden Ear Award, Live Jazz, Review, Seattle Jazz, Tula's