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.