“My musical world has been rocking a little harder lately,” laughs Stuart Hamm, veteran bassist, composer, and collaborator with a host of musical virtuosos from Steve Vai and Joe Satriani to Frank Gambale and Michael Schenker, adding: “The melodies, harmonic and rhythmic ideas and grooves seemed to be pulling me in a more aggressive direction. You’ll need to turn this one up!”
Given Hamm’s world-class resume, you’d be forgiven for assuming that his world is already a heavily rocking place—but as followers of this unique artist will already know, he is a master of fusion, classical and jazz styles as well as the hard stuff.
In fact, if you combine all those approaches to the sacred art of music, you quickly arrive at the adjective “progressive”—an appropriate summation of Hamm’s eighth solo album, Hold Fast, set for release on July 30, 2023. Asked if ‘prog’ is the right word for his new studio collection, Hamm agrees: “There’s a lot of those elements on this album, that’s for sure. I was honored that my old buddy Alex Skolnick is on the new album—I’ve been trying to get our schedules to coincide for years!—and the tracks we did together are full-on prog rock. Not only that, I asked Randy McStine, who is a rising star in that world, to write lyrics to and sing on two tracks.”
As usual, Hamm has roped in a stellar selection of fellow musicians, with drums by the great Gergo Borlai, Greg Ellis on percussion, Bubby Lewis on additional bass, Andrea Whitt playing pedal steel, Steve Ferlazzo providing keys, and Michael Lee Firkins on guitar. These guest performances enhance tracks newly recorded by Skolnick and Joel Taylor, who Hamm describes as “my long-time A-Team road band.”
The final flourish comes from a punchy, full-frequency mix courtesy of a musician known to audiences worldwide—and made up of younger music lovers with modern tastes. Reflecting on the logic of this, Hamm explains: “I turned to my ol’ pal Javier Reyes of Animals As Leaders to finish mixing the songs, because I needed a different, more contemporary set of ears for the sounds I was looking for. I do believe that we came out with mixes much superior to what they would have been had I been left to my own devices. As well as being heavier than anything on my last couple of albums, they have a real sonic impact—I can’t wait for you to hear them!”
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