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Thread: Ken Hatfield

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    Meet Ken Hatfield



    Ken Hatfield: Guitarist, Composer, Arranger

    Guitarist and composer Ken Hatfield's rare combination of talents makes him a truly singular artist. With his boundless imagination, formidable fingerstyle technique, and expansive musical knowledge, he has created a body of work of astonishing originality and exceptional quality.

    Hatfield's five CDs as a leader on the Arthur Circle Music label demonstrate his tremendous gifts as both composer and performer and attest to his consistently high level of artistry. His latest release, The Surrealist Table (out nationally 17 February 2004), showcases a program of ten original compositions performed by his highly interactive trio featuring the swinging rhythm section of bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Jeff Hirshfield.

    On 2002's Phoenix Rising, Hatfield was joined by the rhythm tandem of bassist Glawischnig and Brazilian drumming great Duduka da Fonseca, along with guest artists Claudio Roditi on trumpet and flugelhorn, Dom Salvador on piano, and Billy Drewes on tenor saxophone. Phoenix Rising generated enthusiastic radio airplay, earning it a firm presence on the national jazz charts for ten consecutive weeks. The project also received high praise from the critics, including Jim Ferguson's recognition in the January/February 2003 issue of JazzTimes: "The set offers a representative cross section of his talents, which include writing for solo guitar. . . , a knack for Latin rhythms and moods . . . , and the ability to swing and even get downright funky. . . . Recommended for those with an affinity for the subtle and sublime."

    Hatfield's compositional experience covers a wide range of styles and instrumentations. In addition to composing jazz works for his own ensemble(s), he has written chamber pieces that range from solo classical guitar to string quartet and mixed ensembles of various sizes. He has composed choral works and ballet scores, including commissioned works for Judith Jamison, The Washington Ballet Company, and the Maurice Béjart Ballet Company. And he has written scores for television and film, including Eugene Richards' award-winning documentary but, the day came. ASCAP has recognized his accomplishments by presenting him with its Composition Award for each of the past fourteen years. Arthur Circle Music has published four books of Hatfield's compositions, and in 2004 Mel Bay will publish his book Jazz and the Classical Guitar: Theory and Application, which is designed to demonstrate his unique approach to playing jazz on a classical guitar.

    In addition to performing as a solo artist and with his ensemble(s) at such prestigious venues as The JVC Jazz Festival, The Knitting Factory, The Classic American Guitar Show, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Whitney Sculpture Court, and the North Wales International Jazz Guitar Festival, Hatfield has performed and/or recorded with Charlie Byrd, Jack McDuff, Chico Hamilton, Jimmy McGriff, Melissa Manchester, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Stephanie Mills, Linda Hopkins, Billy Daniels, Pat Benatar, Maurice Hines, Charles Aznavour, Bob Cranshaw, Grady Tate, Harold Maburn, Brian Torff, Marcus Miller, Kenny Kirkland, Dom Salvador, João Donato, Claudio Roditi, Lew Tabackin, Kenny Werner, Ben E. King, Eddie Kendricks, Marlena Shaw, Vivian Reed, Z.Z. Hill, and Toni Braxton.

    Hatfield began studying the guitar with John Griggs in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia, before enrolling at the Berklee College of Music, where he joined the faculty at the age of 19. He studied counterpoint and composition with Paul Caputo in New York City, and received the degree of Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York.

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    AAJ's Barrel Roller xricci's Avatar
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    The Surrealist Table
    Arthur Circle Music
    2004

    Website: http://www.kenhatfield.com

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    AAJ's Barrel Roller xricci's Avatar
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    Have a question for Ken or a comment about his music? Please post it here.

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    First of all I’d like to thank Michael Ricci and the folks at All About Jazz for inviting me to participate in “Catching Up With.” I’d like to start things off with some observations that I encourage you all to respond to (or at least those who find my initial line of inquiry to be of interest).

    I see a variety of challenges facing jazz musicians as we enter this new millennium. While they may be no more daunting than those faced by our predecessors, these challenges are unique to our epoch. Primary among them, at least for jazz composers like myself, is the question of repertoire. Composers of new material who are also performers have to maintain a balance between our relationship with the great standards that make up much of the canon of the music’s history, while nurturing an interest in our own works, which we hope may join the standard repertoire someday. No objective view of the history of jazz can fail to acknowledge the importance of the compositions that are collectively referred to as “standards,” but I find few who speculate about how these compositions acquired this fabled moniker.

    It seems to me that historically the convergence of two criteria has been necessary in order to create sufficient agreement among musicians to confer the term standard upon any tune, because, after all, if few musicians choose to perform a tune, no matter how great that tune may be, it ain’t no standard. The first criterion is the purely musical quality of a tune. In other words, it has to be a well-constructed composition with a strong, memorable, interesting melody and hopefully great, or at least good, chord changes. Though the changes of many standards have, in the hands of jazz masters, evolved collectively from the original intentions of composers such as Cole Porter, few have improved on Duke’s, Monk’s, or Jobim’s originals. The second criterion is popularity, because, even when the first criterion is met, many tunes fail to enter the standard repertoire. By this I mean that historically many jazz musicians have chosen to play tunes that the audience already knows and is likely to recognize, even as instrumentals, because doing so gives the uninitiated in an audience a frame of reference to hang onto during players’ imaginative improvisations and/or interpretations.

    The environment that supported the creation of the types of songs composed in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s in Tin Pan Alley and for the Broadway musicals of that Golden Era no longer exists. Don’t get me wrong—there are still great compositions being created by musicians every day, and many are specifically jazz compositions from the get-go. But they are not immediately recognizable to the audience, because they aren’t already “hits” like the standards of the past were when jazz musicians embraced them. And while there has been no shortage of hits in pop music during the last quarter century, few hold together when performed as instrumentals, so most jazz musicians don’t perform them.

    I am certainly willing to acknowledge the seemingly infinite variety of interpretations of standards that jazz musicians of every ilk consistently come up with. But can we really expect everyone to play the same 2,000 tunes for the next 200 years without jazz becoming a “repertoire music” whose artistic condition will rapidly become analogous to the current state of classical music, where few are willing to program anything a contemporary composer creates, because the audience may not “understand” it?

    All of this brings me to look to the future of our music as I ponder the question(s) about how to both create new material which will hopefully enter the repertoire, and encourage the expansion of our audience for jazz without watering down the content of the music. Because in the end, it is in the content of what jazz musicians do with the tunes they play that the true significance of jazz exists.

    Ken Hatfield

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    Maybe all the Jazzers around the world should just make a concsious decision to play tunes from Herbie Hancok's 'The New Standard' (1996). (Seeing as Herbie is as worthy of the honour as anybody). I particularly like (The Eagles' ?) New York Minute.


    I doubt that you are the only person to be pondering these questions. Particularly about increasing audiences without compromising on content. -- I have no answers.

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    It is interesting to me that "LectricGuitarDude" mentioned Herbie Hancock because I actually had him on my initial list of composers[along with Duke,Monk,& Jobim] whose compositions' harmonic content are rarely improved upon by the kind of collective alteration routinely applied [& largely accepted as an improvement ]by jazz musicians.While virtually no Jazz musicians play the original changes to the tunes of Cole Porter.[Something else to contemplate].
    But my reason for considering Herbies inclusion is that his compositons are some of the best ever written, not because he tried to convert some pop tunes into Jazz vehicles.However of all of the composers I mentioned only Duke & Jobim seemed to have actively collaberated with lyricists......sure lyrics have been added after the fact to many jazz compositions,making them more accessable to some segment of the wider audience.
    I thankyou for taking the time to respond to my initial posting.....my intention is to encourage debate, I don't profess to have the answers....in fact I liken an artists role in society to that of Socrates "gadfly"[which is analogous to the grain of sand in an oyster....that when sufficiently irritating, can stimulate the production of a pearl ].However you seemed to have misunderstood my point about "speculating "about the term standard....& how tunes achieve this rarified status, because in your response,you have conflated that idea with some of the other issues I raised.I never sugessted I am alone in considering audience expansion without comprimising content.But I did say that I find few that speculate about how [standards]acquire that"fabled moniker",which is a point I raised in the context of a comment on the universal accectence of the importance of this part of our repetiore.
    Ken

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    Adam thanks for you kind words about "Phoenix Rising".
    While I am obviously concerned for my own music,and how to expand the audience for it, without comprimising or altering its'content,I was hoping to use this forum to encourage debate about the everchanging relationship between repitiore & audience.
    When the music industry moved away from the disticntion between the creators of material [composers & lyricists] and performers [ singers & instrumentalists] to embrace the singer-songwriter model ,the composers' concerns for the purely musical integrity of the material created was minimized. After all, why should someone whose primary emphasis is the lyric content of their work be concerned with the viability of an instrumental performance of their songs?Consequently most of the popular songs of the last quarter century have not been the kind of material that Jazz musicians can sink their teeth into,without requiring the degree of alteration that makes these tunes virtually unrecognizable to the very audience their performance is intended to attract.I know there are are exceptions, but their rarity [when compared to the quantity & quality of standards that comprise "The Great Amrrican Song Book] eloquently proves my point, because even though the standards where the hits of their day,the hits of our day are so infrequently covered by the popular stars [or jazz musicians] of this time, that it is in accurate to even call them the standards of today [or tomorrow].
    I for one, prefer to compose new material, &/or collaborate with lyricists that have mastered their art, in the hopes that I can contribute to the expansion of our repetiore, rather than play back-up to some pop-tart,or some pop diva whose choice of material is dreadful.
    Ken

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    Originally posted by Ken Hatfield
    It is interesting to me that "LectricGuitarDude" mentioned Herbie Hancock because I actually had him on my initial list of composers[along with Duke,Monk,& Jobim] whose compositions' harmonic content are rarely improved upon ...
    That's an interesting point. Yes, they are rarely improved upon. I would place Chick Corea into that list as well. It's a bit dissapointing that Duke's and Monks tunes are not improved upon too much.


    Regarding the standards, I feel that there will be fewer tunes that will be accepted as standards, in the future. If tunes do make it to that level, it may be due more to the influence of the publishing companies (inclusion in Real Books) than the artist/audience relationship. Basically, for a tune to become a standard, I think somebody is going to have to force that hand.

    Jazz audiences today, are for the most part, sophisticated enough to know exactly what they like. If they were to be swayed by the popular, they wouldn't be listening to Jazz. This makes it harder for any one tune to become exceptionally popular in the Jazz world.

    There are a lot of Jazzers out there, a lot of whom are good. I feel overwhelmed by the amount of good music out there today. How do you pick a tune that is worthy of the status of 'standard'?

    I also feel that the more standards there are out there, the less likely we are to accept new ones. Two reasons for this. 1. The phsychological aspect. Do we want to taint the heavens with the music of a mere mortal? 2. Jam sessions. They work, simply because we have this set of tunes that we all agree on. There will be a reluctance on the part of many jammers so stir things up, by accepting a new standard.

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    LectricGuitarDude,

    I agree that Chick's music could easily be included in my list. However, I'm not sure what you mean about it being disappointing that Duke's and Monk's tunes are not improved upon (harmonically speaking, I assume). Particularly in Monk's case, there's so much he thought out between the bass line, the changes, the melody, and the voice leading, that tinkering with them very much beyond blowing on them tends to upset the delicate balance, which seems a bit ironic for such sturdy compositions.

    Your question about how to pick a tune that is worthy of the status of standard goes to the heart of the discussion I'm trying to encourage. While in a vague way, I think we all know what a standard is, I'm not sure we're all aware of the ambiguous process by which a tune becomes a standard. In the end, it revolves around the fact that a lot of musicians choose to perform a tune. A few years back you couldn't walk into a jazz club in New York without hearing someone playing Brighetti and Martino's tune "Estate," which at the time of its composition was an obscure hit in Italy. This illustrates the point. All of a sudden a lot of people started playing the tune. Sometimes that backfires and people get sick of a tune. I think the gradual process (that could be viewed as a dumbing down by jazz afficionados) that brought us to the current state where there's a disconnect between popular repertoire and the music that jazz musicians find compatible as vehicles for their music, can only be gradually reversed through the creation of material that can both be performed effectively without improvisational flights of fancy (such as the way a singer would perform a standard from the days of the hit parade), and can also serve as vehicles for the imaginative improvisations and interpretations that are the life blood of jazz.

    The current state of jam sessions seems to differ so greatly from its gloried past (as described by the cats that were around in the '40s, '50s, and '60s), that it's really hard to use that as a determining factor to judge the current state of our repertoire. For example, you might show up at a jam session at St. Nick's Pub and have some cat call "Giant Steps," which is clearly something that wouldn't have happened in 1959 when the tune was composed, and find that the rhythm section all know the changes to "Giant Steps," yet don't know "How Deep is the Ocean." This is due to the fact that increasingly the music is learned in schools, and not on gigs. Like it or not, that is where we are and will probably be for the foreseeable future, which is another reason why I feel that the development of the repertoire of our music is so key to expanding our audience base. But who knows? That may just be my opinion.

    Ken

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    After all, why should someone whose primary emphasis is the lyric content of their work be concerned with the viability of an instrumental performance of their songs?
    To pay the rent, perhaps?

    Ken, I'm enjoying your ruminations here. Good thread idea!

    I agree with you that there don't seem to be many songs that would qualify as enduring standards in the past 25 years. It may not be due to a lack of good standard-writers, but the lack of a regular market for them. Jazz is not the pop music of our time, so there isn't the same incentive for people to churn out tunes the way they did when everyone was listening and dancing to it.

    Aside from the composers already mentioned who have probably written classics, Bill Evans and Denny Zeitlin come to mind. In the relative mainstream, I think the Beatles and Stevie Wonder and certainly Ivan Lins will hold up pretty well, but beyond that? No idea.

    As far as original material, if it's melodic, interesting, non-derivative, and has some identifiable structure, rather than being just an ego fest (i.e., anything I do has got to be great because it's MINE), it has potential... but like any other art form, not all originals are noteworthy.

    My 2c...

    Dr. J.
    Alas for those who never sing, but die with all their music in them ~
    Oliver Wendell Holmes

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    Sunny Moon for Two.

    Standard. If it were written today, by say.. Kenny Garrett, would it become a standard?

    * * *

    Particularly in Monk's case, ... that tinkering with them ... tends to upset the delicate balance, which seems a bit ironic for such sturdy compositions.
    Fair enough. Although, that's the challenge when tinkering, and that's the fun in it, isn't it? A well-reworked standard, particualarly if it is one which was originally harmonically 'perfect', always impresses me more than an original composition. Maybe that's just me.
    (The only non-Bill Evans version of 'Blue In Green' I like, that I've heard, is the McLaughlin version, which has a few subtle harmonic 'improvements')

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    We haven't mentioned Wayne Shorter yet, or Ornette Coleman, two significant composers whose harmonic and formal innovations opened up lots of doors for composers and improvisers. And Ornette's tunes have hooks.

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    Everybody is coming up with examples of jazz compositions written by masters that have entered our repertoire in what might be viewed as a sub-genre of standards, i.e., jazz standards. In some respect, whether it's Bill Evans or Wayne Shorter, their compositions, while every bit as masterful as any of the composers already mentioned, or a myriad of other ones yet to be mentioned, have the "disadvantage" of being initially created by jazz musicians for jazz musicians. While this is certainly not an artistic disadvantage (if anything, all of the works of the people we've mentioned are an oasis in an otherwise vast wasteland), their works are kind of preachin' to the choir, because without lyrics it's very difficult to draw other people from the wider audience into our music.

    In fact, Dr. J's comment in response to my question about why someone whose primary emphasis is the lyric content of their work would be concerned with the viability of an instrumental performance of their songs, indirectly goes to the heart of the issue. He suggests they might welcome an instrumental performance in order to pay the rent, perhaps. Unfortunately, the current state of media consolidation means that virtually no radio stations that are not affiliated with NPR regularly program jazz. (This is of course excluding the ever-diminishing handful of commercial jazz stations that exclusively program what they call smooth jazz.) What this means is that there are virtually no broadcast royalties generated for instrumental performances, because ASCAP and its rival licensing organizations, BMI and SESAC, largely or exclusively base their royalty payment rates on the advertising rates the stations charge, and public radio affiliates are prohibited by law from selling advertising time. So even though these broadcasters they pay licensing fees (to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) for the rights to broadcast the artists these organizations represent (which includes jazz musicians), airplay on their stations generates virtually no income for the composers and publishers of the material they play. (In particular, ASCAP defends this policy by saying that the licensing fee is so small that they virtually can't even afford to administer the monies to artists who receive airplay on those stations.) The other source of income that a singer/songwriter might garner from an instrumental performance of their works comes from compulsory licensing fees and/or royalties from sales. Compulsory licensing fees are extremely small, and we all know the sorry state of jazz cd sales (from 2-4% of the total dwindling music sales). So the economics of Dr. J's point means that unless somebody's has had a rent-controlled apartment for the last 200 years, instrumental performances of their material are not likely to generate enough money to pay the rent! The degree to which instrumental music is discriminated against by the music industry is so blatant that ever since Chuck Mangione's instrumental hit "Feels So Good" (from the late '70s) somehow managed to receive a Grammy nomination for the song of the year, NARAS has prohibited instrumental songs from even being considered for nomination for the Song of the Year category. I'm not 100% sure of this, but I believe Jobim's tune "Desafinado" from the Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd recording, is the only instrumental that ever actually won a Grammy in the Song of the Year category.

    In response to LectricGuitarDude, most of the tinkering that folks come up with that really enhances jazz standards that are virtually perfectly constructed from the get-go, fall in the rhythmic category. And thank God for that, because that's one source of renewal that never seems to be exhausted.

    In response to Clifton's point(s), my primary reason for not mentioning Ornette and Wayne Shorter, as well as Herbie and Chick initially, and two of my particular favorites, Kenny Dorham and Joe Henderson, is that I wanted to list a couple of jazz composers whose works are a universally accepted part of the canon of our music, in the context of mentioning Jobim and Cole Porter. I did this largely for the purposes of contrast, since much of the work of Jobim and Cole Porter falls into the category of standards that jazz musicians chose to embrace because of the high quality of the compositions and their popularity with a general audience. In fact, not unlike Monk, only after Jobim's death have jazz musicians and American audiences begun to explore his vast repertoire in a larger sense.

    I suppose my basic theme is that the dedication to the craftsmanship of composition is not a whole lot different than that required for someone to be able to play their horn. However, the skills employed in each are different. They both require the same kind of commitment to study and practice. While not a jazz musician, Brahms was said to have started each morning of his adult life with a few hours of counterpoint studies, and we all know that Duke literally slept with a Wurlitzer electric piano, and later a tape recorder, so he could capture his ideas when inspiration appeared. I'm sure there are pop songsmiths that are every bit as concerned with developing their skills, but they sure seem to be as rare as the jazz musician whose tune becomes as popular and immediately recognizable as "Take the A Train" or "Blue Monk."

    Ken

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    Would 'Take the A Train' become as popular as it has, if it were composed today?

    ***

    Pop-ish to instrumental, off the top of my head:
    It's Your Thing - Soulive w/ John Scofield
    Burnin' Down The House - Marcus Miller
    Tunes from Herbie's 'The New Standard' album

    ***

    A comment that is made often about Some of Mike Stern's tunes, by people who aren't usually into Jazz, is that his lines (ballad heads) are 'singable'.

    **

    And here is some guy's ideas as to why a tune written in 5/4 (Take Five) became popular.
    http://bertscholtes.com/takefive/

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    Hi Ken,

    The topic of how to expand the jazz fan base has been kicked around in a number of threads on this bulletin board as well as the old AAJ board.

    Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on how jazz can develop a larger audience?

    Also, Chuck Mangione's FEEL'S SO GOOD was the last instrumental tune to be nominated for a Grammy as song of the year. A year later (and for whatever reason), instrumental tunes became ineligible for the "song of the year" category. What can NARAS or the Grammy's do to further the awareness of jazz?

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