Hammerhead

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

Our next gigs

Date City Venue
11/12/19 Marrickville, NSW Lazybones
Time: 8:00pm. Admission: $15. Address: 294 Marrickville Rd. Venue phone: 0450 008 563.

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 time the last few years, the music has morphed into a set of all original compositions from the pen of band leader Bruer, showcasing an eclectic array of 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 8 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.

Check out the feature on Hammerhead at australianjazz.net

Listen to the band

album-art

Turning Point

New album

The band

Jason Bruer (tenor sax),  Andrew Robertson (alto sax and flute), Cam McAllister (trumpet), Greg Coffin (piano), Alex Hirlian (drums) and Brendan Clarke (bass)

Previously released

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. Mick Knock

The Hammerhead shark is known for its sensory qualities, and is harmless to humans. What better name for an Australian jazz group? Saxophonist Jason Bruer’s exceedingly clever arrangements of his ten compositions creatively upgrade and vary the conventional theme-solos-theme format. He makes good use of the brilliant pianist Greg Coffin, whose solos and incursions are one of the album’s many strengths. In Blues For Jonesy, Coffin is good enough to encapsulate the essence of the funk/blues genre in a brief solo. An outstanding rhythm section is completed by Brendan Clarke (double bass) and Alex Hirlian (drums). Other than Bruer, Hammerhead’s front-line includes Andrew Robertson (alto sax/flute), and alternating trumpeters Cam McAllister and Simon Ferenci, all consummate professionals. Turning Point recalls the great days of hard-bop, but has enough contemporary influences to locate the music in the present. Eric Meyers, The Australian

Smokin grooves, fat as fuck! Julien Wilson

Great compositions and playing, Bruer has a real knack for horn writing Barney McAll

Well-established Sydney saxophonist Jason Bruer fronts his skilled sextet for an album of re-arranged bop pieces from the sixties, plus several originals. Bruer’s brother Tim is on piano throughout and wrote the opener Blues of Many Hues with a strong trumpet lead by Ray Cassar in a blues that could have come from the repertoire of Nat and Cannonball Adderley.
The title track, Cedar Walton’s Mosaic is taken at a brisk tempo, pushed along by Duncan Archibald’s crisp drumming and nicely integrated solo, Matt Gruebner’s dancing bass line, and Tim Bruer’s jabbing chords also adding a quick flowing solo. The tempo is appropriately slowed for Pat Metheny’s Sometimes I See in a languorous arrangement with a floating, lyrical alto solo from Andrew Robertson. It’s a straight ahead bop sound for Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, while Jason Bruer’s composition Wayne’s World in waltz time features the composer’s introspective tenor solo with leaps into the upper register, some driving piano and bass, and interesting voicings in the ensemble work.
Another original, Art for Art’s Sake also captures attention for its motile arrangement with the trumpet, alto and tenor functioning concisely together and delivers well-constructed solos from bass, alto and trumpet. Butch & Butch by Oliver Nelson lifts the tempo giving free reign to the quick piano with fast ensemble inserts. This collection is in many ways retrospective, and while it reworks numerous bop standards, it’s intentionally not trying to break new ground, managing to re-create many of the sounds and styles of jazz in the sixties, an important era in the history of the genre. John McBeath

23-8-14, Weekend Australian - MOZAIC RELEASE - 3.5 stars

Less than a year before his premature death in 2008, I asked Tony Hobbs, one of Australia’s most passionate saxophonists, if he had any plans for a new band. “I guess I’m just a hard-bop muso”, he replied. “Who wants to hear hard bop nowadays?”
Tony was much more than a player who could be defined by one genre of jazz but in words as in music he had a gift for cutting though the bullshit, and he was making a point. Hard bop is a style and format of jazz that, in Sydney, at least, has been shuffled from the wok-burner to the deep freeze. Although hard bop continues to stylistically define jazz to many casual listeners, its political moment has long passed and its innovations have been codified. Its glories and achievements too easily forgotten, it is no longer seen to be at the cutting edge of creative jazz, having been succeeded – some would say superseded – successively by modal jazz, free jazz, spiritual jazz, electro-fusion, jazz-funk and ethno-jazz. It’s fair to admit, too, that some hard bop gigs are little more than blowing sessions, with solos passed around all-too-democratically to each instrument on every number in strict rotation between the theme and its reprise.
So it was a delight to be at 505 for the CD launch of Hammerhead, a Sydney hard bop combo that creates and presents its music with fire, freshness and a loving knowledge of where it has come from. Hammerhead is the co-creation of Jason Bruer, a highly versatile band-leader and saxophonist who has returned to Australia after decades in London; and Duncan Archibald, a powerhouse drummer. It is rounded out by trumpeter Ray Cassar; Andrew Robertson on alto, baritone and flute; pianist Tim Bruer; and bass-player Matt Gruebner.
The opening set demonstrated how Hammerhead has evolved from a kind of tribute band to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers into a distinctive collective voice. The high-spirited opening number, Blues Of Many Hues, an attractive Tim Bruer composition, established the quality of the original songs the band has developed while Pretty Eyes, re-arranged by Jason Bruer from a Dee Dee Bridgewater arrangement of a Horace Silver classic showed how the band has married ingenious creativity to the rich traditions that inspired it.
Sometimes I See, an unexpected selection for a hard bop band, was one of the highlights of the night. It’s by Pat Metheny, not one of your customary hard bop pantheon, with the gorgeous, mournful theme drawn out by exquisite horn harmonies, Jason Bruer’s limpid tenor, a telling bass solo and Ray Cassar’s
lovely trumpet filigrees. Metheny is visiting Australia later this year and he’d surely love this treatment of his beautiful song. The be-hatted Ray Cassar thrilled everybody all night. He is a superb technician on all registers, equally capable of lyricism or power on open horn or mute. He has been exciting and delighting audiences all year whether he is lighting up James Ryan’s soulful and heavy-hitting funk excursions at Marrickville’s Lazybones Lounge; Steve Fitzmaurice’s thrilling Mingus tribute band, Mingus Amongst Us at the refurbished New Hampton Hotel in Darlinghurst Rd and of course Hammerhead too..
After the end of the first set, many of us hoped that a few intrusively effusive drunks would sink into silence or go home but they continued to exhibit their misplaced brand of conspicuous enthusiasm. Fortunately, Hammerhead are way too professional an outfit to be deterred and amongst the high points of their second set were Sham Time, a hugely funky Eddie Harris workout augmented by Andrew Robertson’s baritone sax and Tim Bruer’s righteous piano solo, and Searching For Network, an electrifying Jason Bruer original that loses no lustre against the classic compositions by Wayne Shorter, Oliver Nelson and Cedar Walton that the band interpreted with distinction. Duncan Archibald’s exemplary drum power continued to drive, colour and cajole the band all evening.
Whether or not hard bop becomes a music that once again attracts the volatile niche markets that comprise jazz, Hammerhead is a band that approaches its music with passion, generosity and imagination. It has become a genuinely cohesive collective which deploys a deft mixture of purposeful originals, canny arrangements of neglected classics and the occasional left-field surprise to present a contemporary take on hard bop with admirable taste and integrity. If you get the chance to see them you will not be disappointed. David Sampson

18-9-2014, austalianjazz.net - HAMMERHEAD LAUNCH - Venue 505

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