Music for Percussion (mostly)Music for Percussion (mostly)

Todd Hammes and his Tool and Drum Ensemble

Innova Records

Four Movement from Remembering, Kalimba on Marimba, 14+8: A Mood, Eh Wa Ba Wa Jo, Marimba, Pan and Tabla, Spedway Boulevard: Tucson, Four Steps, Inconsistencies, My Hunter of Dragonflies
performed by Todd Hammes and his Tool and Drum Ensemble, Norman Weinberg, Doug Smith, John Snavely, and Brian Harris. All music composed by Todd Hammes.

Todd Hammes’ percussion writing is clearly an extension of various world music traditions synthesized with a quirky and charming harmonic vocabulary. The Four Movements from Remembering are excerpts for dancers and, while the visual element is clearly lacking on the CD, the music holds its own. Each movement has its own hypnotic groove and I’m sure many dancers would enjoy “doing their thing” to this music.

In contrast to smooth dancy music, we have the “musical temper tantrum” of 14+8: a Mood. This work sounds a lot more like the contents of Mr. Hammes’ drum studio falling on the ground in clumps. The xylophone solo over the top of the crashes is, in my opinion, a little too polite as is the virtual piano (played by Mac Intosh). Virtual instruments have come a long way, but it will take a while before they can match the overpowering smashes that a big grand piano can deliver. This is definitely a piece to hear live.

Mr. Hammes has clearly made African and Indian tabla music a part of his own style. Eh Wa Ba Wa Jo is a delightful setting of a Nigerian song that is well arranged and well performed by Mr. Hammes (on all three parts). The hypnotic Marimba, Pan, and Tabla combines the sound worlds of Indian tabla with a quasi-Gamelan-inspired tenor steel drum and a peculiar-yet-engaging harmonic rhythm.

Most of the pieces on this disc are smooth and serene. They are very pleasant to listen to and would also make for some hypnotic concert pieces. Sonically, the recordings vary from live (Four Movements) to hyperclose (Inconsistencies) to just weird (Kalimba on Marimba has a very close and fairly dry marimba sound against water splashes that sound cavernous and distant). What I like most about this disc is the synthesis of world styles. This music isn’t just the emulation of African or Indian musics but an interpretation of those musics through Mr. Hammes’ mind.

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