Jan Hammer: No Fear
Jan Hammer (Moog, Oberheim Digital Sequencer)
Like Children (Wounded Bird WOU 430)
Jan Hammer (Moog, Oberheim Digital Sequencer).
Composed by Jan Hammer.
Recorded: Nederland, Colorado, 1974
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
Jan Hammer doesn't play in public or record much anymore. That is his choice, but it is our loss. His place in history goes beyond his playing in Mahavishnu and his composing and performing for TV's Miami Vice. He will go down as a pioneer of the keyboard synthesizer. What set Hammer apart from other early synthesizer contemporaries is that he realized early on that the synthesizer was an instrument and not a tool. To me that is the key in appreciating his music. If he couldn't find a way to bend a note, he would create a way. If he wanted a new sound he would go beyond the synthesizer's limited control panel. He might even open up the instrument's guts and change some wiring. It is sometimes hard in these digital days to realize the extent of Hammer's trailblazing accomplishments from back in the analog days. The man had an overwhelming knowledge of the art of music and of the technology he needed to convey it. He was a musician made for his time.
From the opening ring from the biggest bell on earth, every sound you hear on "No Fear" is synthetic. Hammer manages to include all manner of melodies, speed runs, juxtaposition and rhythms (without drums). His nimble fingers regularly go over the speed limit. At the time you were just as much fascinated with the sounds Hammer was generating as with the quality of the music. After all, you had never heard these sounds before. Today when listening with some history behind us, we can better appreciate the music itself. To experiment and entertain at the same time is no easy task. But Hammer made it sound easy.
Reviewer's Recommendation: Hammer is best known for his revolutionary use of the Moog synthesizer. There is a very good book out entitled Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer (2004) by Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco. You should read it if you are interested in such things.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky