Just Outside of Normal by Stu Hamm Review by Raul Amador –
I met Stu in Anaheim this past January at Winter NAMM. I was standing in the consistently long line to get coffee at Starbucks one morning and he walked up right behind me and we got to talking… I don’t think I have ever met such a nice, down to earth guy. We chatted about music and the Bass and before you know it I have this CD to listen to. Anyway, I just want to thank Stu again for sharing his work with me, especially one of such extraordinary caliber!
I really enjoyed every track on this CD. Stu promptly demonstrates that he is the master of his domain. He plays what he chooses with such confidence it actually made me smile. There is groove, there is speed, there is technique and there are some very unorthodox choices. Stu Hamm has his own “voice” and isn’t afraid to “speak up”! The extraordinary group of musicians that Stu recruited to collaborate on this work facilitates such expression.
Let’s start with “The Obligatory Boogie”. Stu starts us off with a driving rock tune that gets your pulse going; Great to wake up to and drive to work with. The bass work here is precise and impressive!
Now, lets get “Going to California”. We are treated to a musical vision of beauty and grandeur. It’s like seeing pictures but with your ears. This take is soothing, melodic and loaded with tasteful tones including harmonics; I really like the chromatic progressions here.
“The Clarinet Polka” would have been the last tune I expected to hear on the CD but there is, and it is really good. You might wonder how I might know what I am talking about but I admit that I played the accordion as a child and spent a fair amount of time in Polka halls in Colorado listening to the likes of Frankie Yakovich. Who but Stu would play this?
“Windsor Mews” is built on some very cool variations of counter-sliding chords and Joe Satrinis’ guitar playing fills out the piece with some lip-curling playing.
“Just Outside of Normal”, the title track, is another visual piece that takes us to the great Midwest. Let your mind wander to a farm just outside of Champaign, Illinois where Stu grew up. Listen for the Dotar solo by Stu’s brother Bruce. Total Americana.
Now a classical piece! “Adagio” is extremely beautiful and masterfully done and on our instrument! Full of feeling, I can barely see to type this review as my eyes tear up… thanks Stu…
“Big Roller” shows us a swinging version of Stu. The solid Bass platform allows this piece to highlight more of the other musicians where violin, sax, drums and piano take us back in time to an era of music long past.
“Uniformitarianism” has an ethereal kind of “New Age” feel to it; this is a tune that makes you want to think deeper thoughts about life in general. Frank Gambale on guitar reaches those high notes that scream out but in a good way. The bass scaffolding under this tune is deep and multidimensional.
The finale “Lucidity” is the only “vocal” piece and is a soothing, lullaby-like piece with the voice of Malika Ataoui who sings with Cirque Du Soleil. The bass backdrop has a “Happy Trails” quality and is complimentary to the relaxing feel of the tune.
So, there you have it. “Just Outside of Normal” is an amazing piece of work that I intend to enjoy on many more occasions! Discover Stu Hamm’s talent for yourself, you will not be disappointed!
Visit online at www.stuarthamm.net