Jan Hammer: Curiosity Kills
Jan Hammer (keyboards, drums)
Drive (Miramar MPCD 2501)
Recorded: Kent, NY, 1994
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
Drive was Jan Hammer's first real album of original music for several years not connected in some way with television, movies or an audio-visual presentation. His recent most successful releases had been related to the Miami Vice TV show or the audio side of the multimedia production Beyond the Mind's Eye. Those projects sold CDs and videos by the boatloads and helped keep Mr. Hammer quite comfortable, thank you.
Drive came out smack dab in the middle of the Smooth Jazz (barf bag, please) movement, and much of the album trends in that direction. As much as I may not care for some of Hammer's music during this period, it is undeniable that even the weakest pieces are full of inventive ideas and melodies that stick in your head. Producing memorable music in any genre is difficult. It speaks to Hammer's brilliance that he did so in such disparate undertakings as jazz, fusion, rock, and TV and movie soundtracks. There are different skill sets required for each discipline.
"Curiosity Kills" is a good piece of pop-fusion music. It does start off as a TV soundtrack-sounding number with its clicking drum pattern, throbbing bass and emphatic keyboard chords. This reassuring groove will follow the song the rest of the way through. Saxophonist Michael Brecker and special guest Miles Davis then play the tune's engaging main theme. Wait a minute. That is not Miles Davis! That is Jan Hammer on synthesizer playing a muted trumpet patch sounding exactly like Miles post-Tutu. There is no bigger fan of Miles Davis than Hammer. Yet this was not an attempt to phrase or sound like Miles at all. Hammer was able to get a synth patch more to his liking from a muted trumpet. It was as simple as that. Hammer admits being greatly influenced by Miles, but says he was totally unfamiliar with Davis's late period. To him it was all about the Miles who played with Wayne and Tony, et al. The fact that Hammer sounds just like the later Miles on this cut is thus even more interesting. I submit that, unconsciously, Hammer picked up on where Miles may have gone without even knowing it! For all intents and purposes, Brecker and Hammer sound like two great horn players laying it down for the people.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky