Search - Knut Hamre, Steve Tibbetts :: A

Knut Hamre, Steve Tibbetts
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1

Steve Tibbetts doesn't make it easy. The innovative Minneapolis-based guitarist has cut some of the most idiosyncratic albums to come out of the German ECM label. Since moving to Hannibal/Rykodisc, he's given them the diff...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Knut Hamre, Steve Tibbetts
Title: A
Members Wishing: 6
Total Copies: 0
Label: Hannibal
Original Release Date: 2/2/1999
Release Date: 2/2/1999
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Rock
Styles: Progressive, Progressive Rock
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 031257143820

Steve Tibbetts doesn't make it easy. The innovative Minneapolis-based guitarist has cut some of the most idiosyncratic albums to come out of the German ECM label. Since moving to Hannibal/Rykodisc, he's given them the difficult but critically acclaimed album called Chö, setting the chants and hymns of Tibetan nun Choying Drolma to an abstract ambient landscape. Now there's A, an album of ambient chamber works centered on the hardingfele, or Hardanger fiddle. The hardingfele is a violin with a flat bridge and sympathetic strings like a sitar. Usually played as a solo instrument, it sounds to the uninitiated like fiddler Vassar Clements playing an Indian raga after his dog has died. But once you get past the atonality of the instrument, it opens up a world of hardscrabble tradition and that isolated, forlorn character that goes deeper than a Nordic cliché. Steve Tibbetts has been intoxicated by this sound for years, and on A he teams up with Norwegian hardingfele player Knut Hamre, clearly a Heifitz of hardingfele. Joined by a core group of fellow hardingfele player Turid Spildo, Tibbetts's longtime percussionist Marc Anderson, and jazz bassist Anthony Cox, the guitarist orchestrates ambient improvisations and atmospheres that hark back to his ECM debut, Northern Song. Like that album, A--also recorded in Norway--brims with haunting moods and textures that splinter like the spider-web cracks of an ice-covered lake. This isn't Norwegian folk music. Instead, it's the hardingfele spirit that is steeped in Nordic mythology and legends of trolls. You can just picture the gnarled creatures cavorting to Tibbetts and Hamre's dance. --John Diliberto

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CD Reviews

Really, really dull. Tibbetts has released much better work.
Colin R. Glassey | Bay Area, CA USA | 11/19/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Each "song" on this record sounds just like the previous one. And they don't sound that good. Now, I am a huge fan of Steve Tibbetts. YR, Safe Journey, Exploded View, these are all fanatastic recordings filled with beauty and wonder. However, this record is dull and boring. Not "good dull" like "Northern Song", which is a subtle, mysterious "ambient" record. Bottom line: when ECM releases a lot of records by an artist, then fails to release a new record by that same artist, there is reason to worry. (This record was released by Hanibal Records, all previous Tibbetts records have been released on ECM, with the exception of last year's "Cho").Does Manfred Eicher (the founder and head of ECM records) have good taste in music? In a word: YES. After all, its not the case that ECM is in this business because they make tons of cash...In case you wonder why I say this, the most recent record from Stephan Micus (Beyond 11 Deserts) is similar to this record: not good, and not released by ECM records."
Slow, ecstatic burn | New York | 02/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This music is a portal into the heart of ecstacy... the seething burn of the fiddles are barely tested by Tibbetts' cool moodwork, as a slow fire burns and burns... Tibbetts' previous Hannibal outing, "Cho," is cooler in tone, intimate yet with lots of space, a perfect foil for this one, which just keeps stoking the flames of yearning. No, it's not the old Steve Tibbetts... and yet, it is... looking for new connections. Steve: the stuff you're doing now (on Hannibal) is expansive - in the best sense of the word. Keep going please. The rest of you, click on the audio samples and jump in."
A Rich Musical Tapestry
Karl W. Nehring | Ostrander, OH USA | 07/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Minnesota guitarist Steve Tibbetts has long been one of my musical heroes, not only because of his musical talents, which are many, but because of his friendly spirit and his willingness to reach out and find musical treasures and then bring those treasures to light by making wonderful recordings of them. This CD came to me along with a little note that said "Dear Karl--Here's my latest CD. Rykodisc isn't sure what to do with this one. They like it, but they're a little unsure about marketing strategies... Thanks a lot. I appreciate your keeping me on your mailing list. I read each and every issue [of The $ensible Sound -KWN]. I think I may have bought my last set of speakers, however. This CD would be a cool-sounding vinyl thing, and I'm not even an analog purist."

Knut Hamre is a master of the Hardingfele, which Tibbetts explains is a Norwegian fiddle that has sympathetic (drone) strings under the fingerboard. The drone strings help give it a rich and resonant tone, and for the on-site recording sessions in Norway, Tibbetts used one microphone close to the instruments and another about 20 feet away in the Utne church where he recorded Knut Hamre and fellow Hardingfele player Turid Spildo. Tibbetts explains that he and percussionist Marc Anderson would play for a while with Knut and Turid, setting a mood, and then when the spirit hit, Knut and Turid would play while the tapes rolled.

Tibbetts then brought the tapes of the Hardingfele back to his studio in Minnesota, where he played with them and added in parts featuring Marc Anderson on percussion (Tibbetts told me with a laugh in his voice that Marc brought in to the studio one day a really ugly bass drum that he had found in a dumpster somewhere--it wound up sounding great and adding a nice punch to the bottom end of the mix) and Anthony Cox on bass, plus some supporting work from Emily Khorana on cello, Karl Ackerman on violin, Amy Moron on viola, John Siegfried on harp and contrabass, Steve Hassett on psaltery, and Ray Gilles on jublan and suling. Tibbetts put this all together using "creative razorblading" techniques, and the end result is this wonderful recording.

The music is haunting--sometimes earthy, sometimes ethereal, but always plaintive and haunting. The sound of the Hardingfele is always at the center, but it is joined and augmented by the sounds of the other instruments and sometimes by the voice of Turid Spildo. It is music not quite like anything you have ever heard before, but it does not sound strange or exotic. It seems to be music from deep inside the soul, or deep inside the earth. Interestingly enough, Tibbetts reports that Hardingfele music is not all that popular in Norway. Knut Hamre told him, in fact, that there is an old Norwegian saying that goes something like, "the only exercise my father ever got was leaping across the room to shut off the radio when Hardingfele music came on." Tibbetts tell me that they he plans to tour with Knut one of these days, playing this music, "even in Norway--where they hate it! That should be interesting..."

Maybe it's because I'm not Norwegian (although I am one-fourth Swedish, if that counts for anything), but I find this music to be quite enjoyable, although maybe that is partly because of what Steve Tibbetts and his musical razor blade have wrought. This is by all means not an archival recording of indigenous unadulterated Norwegian folk fiddling, it is a rich musical tapestry informed by traditional Hardingfele music and then transformed by the musical and acoustical vision of Steve Tibbetts and the musical and acoustical contributions of his band of merry Minnesota musical mavens into something that music lovers should adore and audiophiles should swoon over.

In the end, all I can tell you is that this CD is a cool-sounding polycarbonate/aluminum thing."