Melodies that you can hold onto, grooves that get under your skin, and an electricity that reminds you of first listening to jazz as a teenager.
Jasmine Crittenden – musicaustralia.org.au
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About the band
Powerhouse sextet Hammerhead burst onto the Sydney scene in 2010, playing from a catalogue of music largely inspired by the late 50s and early 60s ‘Hard Bop’ movement. Formed by internationally acclaimed tenor saxophonist Jason Bruer, Andrew Robertson (alto sax and flute), Cam McAllister (trumpet), Greg Coffin (piano), Alex Hirlian (drums) and Brendan Clarke (bass) make up the sextet.
Over the last few years, the music has morphed into a set of all original compositions from the pen of band leader Bruer, showcasing his eclectic array of disparate influences including hard edged Urban Jazz, Hard Bop, Funk and Chamber Jazz illustrating a considerable contemporary shift in approach & style.
Having been together now for over 9 years, Hammerhead have gained National recognition and praise through their exciting live performances. 2014 saw the release of their debut CD ‘Mozaic’ which has received widespread critical acclaim in Australia and also Japan and the UK.
The band has risen in stature considerably over the last few years, and as a result has been featured at a number of prominent Jazz festivals around the Country including Manly Jazz Festival, Thredbo Jazz Festival, Capitol Jazz Project (Canberra) The Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival, and The Sydney Con’ International Jazz Festival. They have also done ‘sold out’ shows at Gods Cafe in Canberra and the Wollongong Conservatoire of Music.
They perform a monthly residency at Lazybones Lounge and have also played concerts at Venue 505 and Foundry 616.
2019 has seen the release of their second CD ‘Turning Point’ which contains ten original compositions by bandleader and tenor saxophonist Jason Bruer, showcasing his array of disparate influences.The band have been touring to promote this release which has taken them to Cairns (QLD) and Brisbane (QLD) as well as shows in Sydney at The Manly Jazz Festival, Marrickville Festival and Lazybones Lounge.
Check out the feature on Hammerhead at australianjazz.net
The original compositions on this recording offer a significant shift in approach to Jason Bruer’s previous release Mosaic. Bruer has made numerous changes to his Hammerhead band’s line up to facilitate this change of direction. He’s ensconced young gun Alex Hirlian on drums, Brendan Clarke is now the bass player and the trumpet and flugelhorn players, Cam McAllister and Simon Ferenci are now holding fort in the horn line and Greg Coffin is now on keys. So it’s basically a new bigger band along with Andrew Robertson who’s come for the ride on alto saxophone and flute. All told, that’s quite an impressive assembly. You’d be hard-pressed to find a tenor player better suited to this atmosphere than Bruer or a group of musicians as well-matched to his vision. It’s no longer a secret that Bruer writes about as well as he plays — superbly. His fiery band gets out of the gate with a bang on the two openers, Sychophanticide and Conversations, two perfectly crafted showcases, that turn out to be stylish, straight ahead funk sessions. By the time they arrive at the comforting ballads of Breath and A Fugue Too Many plus the very slinky Sixth Sense, the frisky fire of the band reaches full bloom to softer ideals with some gorgeous flute playing from Robertson, into a comfort zones where world class pianist Greg Coffin feels right at home. Apart from shining a spotlight on Bruer, who excels on every track with his distinctive voice on tenor and soprano saxophones, an extended analysis of all of the soloists’ virtues is beyond the scope of this review. Suffice it is to say that each of them display incredible musicianship and make essential contributions to this recording. Taken as a whole, this recording represents a superb and innovative, career-capping achievement
When the awards for Australian jazz band and album of 2019 are handed out later this year, there’s a fair chance that Hammerhead’s name will loom large. The Sydney sextet’s second release, following personnel changes, is pretty well what the title suggests. The record represents a turning point for Hammerhead and its founder/frontman, composer and tenor and soprano saxophonist Jason Bruer. Whereas 2014’s Mozaic was a genuflection to movers and shakers of the hard bop movement, the all-original Turning Point is coloured from an altogether wider compositional palette, mirroring Bruer’s desire to inject more diversity into the band’s repertoire. Hammerhead trawls deep and wide — from a hard swinging starter to a closing waltz; from a breathtaking ballad to a blues-based eulogy; from a classically informed fugue to funk-jazz. The rich counterpoint created within the horn and rhythm sections, the diversity of styles within the jazz spectrum and the inordinately high quality of arranging and individual and collective playing brings to mind those Oz champions of yore Ten Part Invention.
“If you want to hear how good Australian Jazz has become give a listen to ‘Turning Point’, the latest CD by Jason Bruer’s Hammerhead, an exceptional recording that ticks all the right boxes”.