"Best-Crafted Music of Its Kind"

"Best-Crafted Music of Its Kind"

Album review by John Powell

Plenty of intensity drives Greene Street, the all-instrumental masterwork of the Brad Hammonds Group. Brad himself is on guitars and writes all the songs. Add in Will Matina on cello, Jason Dimatteo, Mathias Kunzli on percussion, and Nick Russo on banjo and mandolin, and you have a group capable of Spanish-influenced jazz, French-tinged dance reels, and neo-folk spacing out.

Yet, while many of the group’s contemporaries seek the unique sounds and the otherworldly arrangements, here all songs are kept airy and beautiful; no guitar solo swirls off into elevator music, no melody sounds rehashed or cheesy. It’s some of the best-crafted music of its kind.

The title track starts everything off. Brad is an exquisite guitar player, hitting harmonics and noodling his way into this funky rhythmic bounce of a song. Totally organic sounding, the song is heavy enough to dance to, which is impressive for an acoustic group without a drum kit.

“Stomp” sounds amazing in headphones, panned lovingly between guitar and banjo (used here with the utmost grace). Handclaps take it to the next level, elevating into a hoedown, but not hokey and not out of synch with the rest of the album. Heavy slide guitar makes the jam even groovier.

There is, in fact, no bad songs on Greene Street, a near miracle for an instrumental album; perhaps because no song is longer than three and a half minutes, some not even two. The album soars by elegantly, such as on “Chesapeake”, with cello playing the melody on the upper frets. The band tackles a hundred emotions in one song, growing quiet and meditative and then energetic, without ever feeling disjointed.

“Further East” touches on Middle Eastern arrangements, but restrained, holding on to that blitzkrieg sound that is notably Brad Hammonds Group. Down to the last track, “Summer Feel”, with its complex finger work and excellent use of layers, Greene Street is full of humor, beauty, and talent. I highly recommend this album to, well, everyone.

Bottom line: All-instrumental “folk” music of originals that instantly sound like classics.

"Intoxicating"

"Intoxicating"

By Isaac Davis Junior

Sometimes one doesn’t need words to make a BIG impression with his or her music. Take Guitarist Brad Hammonds who masterfully commands his instrument with brilliant sounds of excitement that music lovers will find intoxicating. Hammonds is skilled with taking us through a musical joyride that tells wonderful stories along the way. His music is brilliantly and wonderfully constructed with just enjoy added tunes with vocals and other instrumentals to make listening to Hammonds’ music a memorable lifetime experience. In this spotlight with our publication, we get the 411 on who is Guitarist Brad Hammonds.

Isaac: Thank you for allowing us to interview you in this format. It seems like the world is excited with tons of new great music. What are you most excited about for your music in 2012?

Brad: I am really excited to be releasing my new instrumental album this summer. I recorded with a killer band (Will Martina- Cello, Jason DiMatteo- Bass, Mathias Kunzli- Percussion) and love how the album turned out. It’s been a lot of fun playing these songs live and mixing them up with some of the vocal tunes I have done in the past.

Isaac: Which label would you prefer to sign with major or indie, and why?

Brad: I think Nonesuch would be a great label to be on. Their roster is amazing and I’ve heard great things. I would also love to be on Ani DiFranco’s label righteous babe- she is a huge influence on me.

Isaac: Do you consider yourself an indie or DIY performer and why?

Brad: I am completely independent and I’m not sure what a label could really offer at this point. I know it’s my job to go out and get people into shows and garner interest in what I do. If I can do that successfully, there is no need to hand anything over to a label.

Isaac: Do you feel that the media supports DIY performers/bands/artists enough?

Brad: Yes, but it’s like anything else; you have to work hard for the media to take notice. Everyone is a musician these days or has a band so you have to do something that will stand out from the crowd. I don’t mean getting calf implants, or playing naked on stage but I have considered both of these things. Huh?

Isaac: In your opinion, what are your thoughts on how the most unusual place you’ve ever played a show or made a recording impact the qualities of the show/recording?

Brad: I played a metal club one time in the Netherlands with my old duo Brazz Tree (www.brazztree.com)- very organic rootsy world music. We thought the crowd was going to 1. Hate us and 2. Beat the hell out of us…but it wound up being the best show of the tour and we sold a ton of CD’s. I think it’s really good to get out of your comfort zone when doing shows or recording.

Isaac: I am interested in knowing if in what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived); affect the music you create, or your taste in music?

Brad: I live in New York City and there are so many amazing musicians here. Any night of the week there are ridiculously talented people playing their faces off. It’s really inspiring for the most part- you can find Gypsy Jazz, Balkan dance music, New Orleans Brass bands, amazing Singer Songwriters etc.

Isaac: What can you tell our publication about the last time you wrote a song?

Brad: My last album (Greene Street) really came together as a whole. I started writing this batch of tunes in my studio (on Greene Street) and they kept coming. When I put the band together we only rehearsed a few times before hitting the studio. It was the easiest process I’ve ever had putting together a record.

Isaac: If you knew that you would never gain fame and fortune with what you are doing now, would you continue to make music? Explain.

Brad: Absolutely; I don’t plan on gaining either- I write world folk music . My goals are to evolve as a musician and have some great experiences out there.

Isaac: Do you have a strong support system with your family and friends? How do they help your financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc.?

Brad: My wife, Candace, is my biggest champion and my best friend. I toured for three years full-time when we were first married and it was never an issue. We have a two year old and I named a song on my new album after him ‘Ryan the Lion’…I can’t really begin to describe how amazing life is with him in our lives! Sorry for the cliché, but its true; he is an amazing kid and a burgeoning flamenco guitarist!

Isaac: As you continue your own path for making music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people…and why do you think that is?

Brad: I am always seeking out new music- I find a ton of great music on the NPR tiny desk concerts. Music isn’t really a hobby for me where I listen here and there, play once in awhile etc…It’s goes in there with eating and sleeping.

Isaac: As far as your influences, what would you say are the musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener? Isaac: What is the best site/s that you can be found on the Internet?

Brad: I am all over the place with music- I am drawn to folk music from America and from all over the world, as well as jazz. I also go see a lot of heavier bands etc…
A musical partner and I recently started a business where we write for film and tv so we listen to a lot of electronic music for reference and to ‘what the kids are listening to’. Its been a blast!

Isaac: The floor is yours; final words…..

Brad: Thanks so much for another interview, Isaac!! I really appreciate you giving the floor to independent musicians such as myself!

Content copyright 2010-2015. Junior’s Cave Golden Isles Online Magazine, LLC. All rights reserved.

"Novel Sonic Surprises"

"Novel Sonic Surprises"

I was eleven.  It was Sunday.  We picked up Grandma and we were on our way to listen to chamber music in the dome of the Palace of the Legion of Honor. I had protested going for days to no avail. That morning my Mother dressed me in suit and tie, and hard Buster Brown shoes, and hurried me in to the rear seat of an Oldsmobile 88.  This was to be quiet and listen music and I was neither quiet nor willing to listen.  However, a few stern looks and physical reminders from my Father kept me in line in the audience before the music began.

From my folding chair I bent down and picked up a handbill for a Bill Monroe concert off the floor of the rotunda.  I forget where the concert was scheduled to occur.  I was intrigued to see banjos, fiddles, guitars and stand-up bass.  Then I didn't really know much about bluegrass music other than you can't be sad and listen to a banjo.  Try it.  You become happy or you have to turn the music off.  I daydreamed about banjos and guitars and the fun of bluegrass, and happily sang Buck Owens' "Pfft, She Was Gone"  as the chamber music group took center stage. My Father boxed my ears and told me to pay attention.

I watched as a string quartet entered - a cellist, a bassistand two violinists - dressed in tuxedos.  I got slapped on the back of my head for swinging my legs and was scolded in a whisper to be quiet, polite, watch and listen.  I did.  I became fascinated by the intricate arpeggiated interplay of the strings, how plucked strings sounded different from bowed strings, and how the sound swirled as it echoed off the cupola.

My fascination and eleven year old patience waned after about ten minutes.  I wished I were casually dressed and yearned for the sound of a guitar and some percussion in the mix.  It wasn't that I didn't like chamber music, it was, well, just too sedate and formal.  Even then I recognized the virtuosity of the players but I just could not enjoy a full helping of the product.  Looking back, if they had then existed it was at that moment that I really needed the Brad Hammonds Group.

The Brad Hammonds Group is an unusual string quartet that consists of guitarist Brad Hammonds, cellist Will Maritna, percussionist Mathias Kunzli and bassist Jason DiMatteo.  They released their debut album, Greene Street, this July.  It is an electic collection of ten virtuoso instrumental tracks that combine elements of bluegrass, folk, classical, chamber, jazz, acoustic rock, Americana and World music. Hammonds’ guitar work is masterful as he plays progressions at a rip-neck pace, changes genres or solemnly leads an instrumental game of tag.  The sound is unadulterated, sophisticated and cerebral, but does not require coat and tie or tuxedos.   The album provides a musical style and genre synthesis, with novel sonic surprises, that compels this listener to listen attentively.  

Sitting in the Palace all those years ago Brad Hammonds Group's album Greene Street could have easily held my interest for the entire half hour running time of the album - probably even longer if the show had opened with a banjo.

- Old School   

Greene Scene

Greene Scene

By Tom Orr

Here was a CD cover looked intriguing and inviting. A quartet of guys- an acoustic guitarist, a cellist, a percussionist and an electric bassist -sitting in what appeared to be a combination living room and home studio. Such a sight suggested a laid-back musical camaraderie likely shared by all four. Turns out I was right about the musical camaraderie, but the laid-back part wasn’t necessarily so.

The music on Greene Street is fairly rockish, though rock and roll it ain’t. Guitarist Brad Hammonds writes and plays what he calls “world folk-rock,” and if such a term doesn’t sound quite specific enough to be a category of its own, there’s no doubting that Hammonds is a deftly skilled player with a touch that can go from sensitive to sizzling. Thus categorization is of no consequence when he and his bandmates play.

Entirely instrumental, Greene Street put me in mind of any number of musical strains: a little bluegrass here, a bit of Celtic there; some jazzed-up flamenco for listening or dancing pleasure; an interlude with shades of acoustic Led Zeppelin or a groove that wouldn’t be out of place on the streets of Rio. Such experimenting can come out sounding like a mess, though Hammonds and company keep it clean, tight and engaging. And despite my earlier assertion, they do know how and when to keep it mellow. If there’s a problem, it’s that the disc, clocking in at a shade under 30 minutes, is too short.

The music is plentifully good and could certainly afford to be, well, more plentiful, perhaps stretching out with a higher volume of solos and interplay. Still, an adventurous and satisfying work, well worth checking out.

"Indisputably Complex"

"Indisputably Complex"

We say: Acoustic world folk-rock fusion from New York.

Brad Hammonds is a New York-based musician and sometimes psychologist who, while once a member of college circuit gigging duo Brazz Tree, prefers these days to work on his own solo projects without the pressures of live performance and touring. Greene Street is a collection of acoustic pieces that hint at oriental and Celtic music with their modal melodies and shifting time signatures. There are no vocals here, just ensemble playing of the highest order. It's tough to pigeon-hole, though, as Greene Street is not really Rock, nor is it folk or jazz—Brad Hammonds himself describes his music as "world folk-rock" and this claim seems fair enough.

There's a wholesome live feel to this recording, and it is easy to picture the musicians sitting around in a circle sparking each other off to flights of improvisation, although the material performed here is clearly painstakingly arranged and tightly rehearsed. Hammonds is a fast-fingered, percussive player but the other featured musicians are equally impressive. Particularly worthy of mention is the lyrical cello playing of Will Martina who performs with Burnt Sugar, but the percussion of Regina Spektor sideman, Mathias Kunzli, and bass of Jason DiMatteo, another Burnt Sugar member, are equally accomplished.

Given its wide range of world music reference points, the music here sounds a touch Middle Eastern on occasion; at other times, it hints at flamenco influences, European folk melodies, and even Led Zeppelin. Although indisputably complex, the tunes are performed with sufficient spontaneity and elan to never sound forced or contrived.

The song titles give something of a clue as what to expect. "Stomp" delivers pretty much what it promises: an energetic, instrumental tour de force that has a vague bluesy feel. "Parisian" hints, somewhat obliquely, at wide boulevards, shrugging waiters and expensive espressos. "Gentle Now" is, as you might imagine, comparatively gentle, with pizzicato cello and expressive solo guitar against a background of softly swaying percussion. Although "The Fly" doesn't sound particularly insect-like it does busily buzz along driven by walloping percussion, and "Further East" is, appropriately, a little more oriental-leaning than most of the other tunes on show here. "Summer Feel", which concludes proceedings, is bright, breezy and quite lovely. It's also surprisingly short: there again, so are some of our summers these days.

"Rootsy Grooves and Rocking Reels"

"Rootsy Grooves and Rocking Reels"

Brad Hammonds and his group explore acoustic instrumental music with a global outlook. Their new record, Greene Street, reveals a spontaneous approach with a talented roster of musicians. Brad’s guitar is accompanied by Will Martina on cello (Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber), Mathias Kunzli on percussion (Regina Spektor) and Jason DiMatteo on bass (Burnt Sugar). Known for his quicksilver guitar playing, Brad Hammonds effortlessly moves from folk to bluegrass to Middle Eastern beats to Celtic riffs in the blink of an eye. “It’s bizarre,” Hammonds laughs. “I don’t know where it comes from. I’m a white guy from Delaware, but I write world folk-rock.” Studying the drums while growing up influenced the percussive technique Hammonds uses on his guitar today.

“A lot of the time signature shifts and techniques I use come from studying the drums. I’m trying to play the drums and the guitar at the same time. I break a string nine times out of ten when I play.” – Brad Hammonds

When Hammonds, Martina, Kunzli and DiMatteo got into the studio, their ideas came together quickly. An open tuning or a piece of a melody led one note to another as the songs practically wrote themselves. By avoiding any unnecessary overdubs, Greene Street maintains a nice, organic sound throughout. This free but thoughtful and textured set of songs will impress you with their ambition. The acoustic drive of this music prevails as Brad Hammonds and his group roll through rootsy grooves and rocking reels while feeding musical ideas off each other. Listen to a selection of tracks from Greene Street above or at bandcamp. Brad Hammonds will be atThe Friars Club on Thursday, August 2nd and Caffe Vivaldi on Wednesday, August 8th.

"Onto Something Good"

"Onto Something Good"

I’m not sure if it’s the composing pen of someone who’s soaked in Ani DeFranco, Tool, Metallica and Shakti, or the insertion of an electric bass among all those acoutsic string instruments or the creative rhythms or the inclusion of Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber players, but there’s definitely something a little different about acoustic guitarist Brad Hammonds’ music. For his upcoming album Greene Street, he decided to cobble together a quartet of musicians who can help him create a set of instrumental music that would better exploit his acoustic guitar skills and an eclectic songwriting background. The Brad Hammonds Group is thus made up of Hammonds, cellist Will Martina, bassist Jason DiMatteo and percussionist Mathias Kunzli (Nick Russo adds banjo and mandolin where needed).

You could call this music “bluegrass,” but at times it’s by default. Hammonds can redirect his very capable band to so many parts of the country and of the world: there’s the bluesy, hoedown thump of “Stomp,” the Appalachia symphony of “Chesapeake,” and the multi-mood “If This, Then That” (see Youtube below). But it’s not all Americana; “Parisian is a modern take on the prewar French swing of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, “Further East” has a Middle-Eastern flair, “Summer Feel” feels like European chamber music and “Ryan The Lion” appears to blend Celtic with North African folk music.

Everywhere on this album, Kunzli’s percussion adds another kick in the pants to these tunes: as a drummer first, Hammonds understands rhythmic concepts first hand and allowed his percussionist to play bolder than what’s usually allowed in these kind of settings. The Brad Hammonds Group, however, don’t approach anything in a necessarily conventional way, yet it all somehow comes together impulsively with a rich composite sound. Not too unfamiliar but definitely not rote, Hammonds is onto something good, here.

"Lighting Fast Acoustic"

"Lighting Fast Acoustic"

The effervescent world folk music of guitarist Brad Hammonds adds another dimension to the world of music with his fellow bandmates. The folk guitarist composes instrumental guitar jams that are accompanied by cello, banjo, mandolin, bass, and percussion. The lightning fast acoustic picking is top-notch and readily processed by all who listen to it's twinkling melodies. The folk percussion and Brad's 12 and 6-string guitars add a little Appalachian splendor to the mix. The ten tracks represent a lush collection of emotive compositions are fun to listen to and each one reveals something new with every listen. Fans of Ben Bowen King, Bob Brozman, European/Celtic traditions, and instrumental guitar-folk music will love it. ~ Matthew Forss

New Music Spotlight: Brad Hammonds

New Music Spotlight: Brad Hammonds

By Isaac Davis Jr.

Brad Hammonds is an amazing guitarist who has recently decided to expand his talents to singing. What you get is a Singer/Songwriter who creates beautiful music that will certainly make you an instant fan. Some of Brad's biggest appeals come from his soulful jazz rock tunes, beautiful lyrics, and sensational vocals. In this recent spotlight with our Webzine, Brad gives us the 411 on the man behind the music. Enjoy! 

Isaac: What was the best part of 2008 for you musically? 

Brad: After finishing a tour of colleges and universities with my duo 'Brazz Tree', I decided to start writing songs for a solo record and wound up writing about 30 songs in the span of two weeks...the best part was putting the band together and getting in the studio and seeing the album come to fruition...it was a pretty organic experience... I had a great bassist Jason DiMatteo and drummer John Bollinger record with me who are both pros here in the city...also, I originally hired a singer and wound up singing it myself which was a lot of fun. I never imagined I would ever sing. 

Isaac: What do you feel was your biggest accomplishment for 2008? 

Brad: I've always identified myself as a guitarist and now have branched off as a singer/songwriter as well...I just finished the album and have a great company doing a college radio campaign for it this summer and pitching it to Fall television...it's all really exciting! 

Isaac: Describe the music scene in area. 

Brad: I live in NYC and there are amazing musicians and bands here...there is a venue called Barbes in Brooklyn and you can go in there any night of the week and see something amazing! On the flip side, NYC's music scene is really oversaturated and some bands are playing at 5pm which is crazy to me. There a few great venues and way too many bands... 

Isaac: What has been the best venue to perform at and why? 

Brad: I love playing Joe's Pub in the city...it's a small theater downtown and it has a great intimacy to it and always fills up...Brazz Tree also plays the the 'Vermont Arts Exchange' in Bennington, Vermont which is a venue where the whole town comes out to the show and has great energy...it's always an incredible experience. 

Isaac: Elaborate a little about whom were your biggest influences in the music industry and why? 

Brad: I admire Ani DiFranco...she did it all herself when labels were still relevant. I also have been really inspired by her guitar style; percussive and intricate. 

Isaac: Let's talk about what you feel you will bring to the music industry? 

Brad: I think a unique guitar style with accessible and familiar songwriting. I think the album flows well but each song has a lot of different influences from roots, rock, jazz and world music. 

Isaac: If you had an opportunity to work with one artist or group, who would it be and why? 

Brad: Peter Gabriel is my biggest inspiration as a musician...he always pushes the envelope and is a genius songwriter...I would love to record in his real world studios in England. 

Isaac: How would you describe your music to others? 

Brad: Acoustic rock with jazz and world elements. 

Isaac: What type of feedback have you received from fans about your music? 

Brad: I have received a lot of positive feedback so far... 

Isaac: Where can fans locate you at online? 

Brad: www.myspace.com/bradrhammondswww.bradhammonds.comwww.myspace.com/brazztree,www.brazztree.com 

Isaac: What can fans expect from you in the next five years? 

Brad: I really just want to continue what I'm doing which is touring, and recording both with brazz tree and as a solo artist...I would also really like to get into publishing. I study jazz guitar and eventually would like to more of that. 

Isaac: Final words… 

Brad: Thanks so much for the interview Isaac...I'm doing a press campaign in the beginning of June and will begin doing some solo performances this summer. 

"It Just Works"

"It Just Works"

By Matthew Crist

With a style that embraces ‘90s US grunge rock and thumping twelve-string Spanish guitar folk, Through It All takes you from beer swilling anger in Seattle to sangria sipping in the Spanish sun before a quick hoedown in the deep south after a brief siesta in Mexico. Though this is the first solo offering from New York based singer/songwriter Brad Hammonds the vast array of musical influences and fine production could lead you to believe he has been around for years. The sometimes dark and often brooding lyrics combine brilliantly with an upbeat production, full to the brim with international flavour which results in a superb bitter sweet theme that runs through the album’s twelve tracks. After the haunting opening of the records title track Through It All, the tempo is raised somewhat by "The Story Of The Man Who Lost Everything" before the superb and uplifting "Medicine", complete with mariachi trumpet and thumping Spanish guitar set to a military two-step snare drum. Hammond’s granite like tones are complemented superbly by the more porcelain backing vocals of Jesse Lynn on The Judge. A striking confidence with both guitar and vocals are highlighted in the ballad-like "Favourite Time Of The Year"before the album closes with "Whiskey and Wine", which at 1 minute 34 seconds is a miniature bluegrass style drinking anthem that only the most reluctant toe would not tap along to. “Folky” guitars, funky boinks and a Mexican wind section maybe a strange combination to comprehend, but just like a big New York breakfast with savoury bacon, eggs and potatoes thrown on the same plate as sweet syrup and pancakes, it just works. (MC)