Jerry Hahn, Paul Romaine, Jeff Jenkins and Peter Huffaker Saturday, September 8, 2007 Dazzle Better than: Seeing Hahn solo
Eleven years ago, jazz guitarist Jerry Hahn had a regular gig at Denver’s Trio Enoteca with drummer Paul Romaine and pianist Jeff Jenkins. Last Saturday the guitarist, who now lives in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas, was reunited with his old bandmates, while bassist Peter Huffaker sat in.
The quartet opened the set with Hahn’s original “12 Bars Within a Tune,” a buoyant blues number with Romaine swinging lightly on the ride cymbal. Next, Hahn went into the chorus of “Stella By Starlight” by himself, with the band coming in and picking up the pace a bit. During his solo, Hahn was in excellent form, exploding into some fast runs and chromatic leaps.
Hahn then told the audience how he’d acquired the 1951 Gibson L-4 he was playing. 1n 1996, was recording Falling Off the Roof in Seattle with Ginger Baker, Charlie Haden, Bela Fleck and Bill Frisell. One of the guitars Frisell was playing on the date was left on his lawn by his friend The Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson. Frisell told Hahn about the guitar he thought he might like to play: the L-4 that he’d bought for $75 at a garage sale in New Jersey ten years prior. Hahn really liked the guitar and joked with Frisell, saying he’d buy the guitar for twice the price he’d paid for it. The next day Hahn kidded again and said he’d triple the price. Hahn really wanted the guitar. Hahn continued to joke with Frisell, finally saying, “You know that thing that Gary Larson did…?” Five days after he’d returned to Denver, he came home from work to find a big box sitting in front of his door. It was the L-4. Hahn dedicated his latest album, Hahn Solo, to Frisell and said he’d also played that guitar on the record.
After a jazz waltz medley of two hymns, “In the Garden” and “Old Rugged Cross,” Hahn invited local vocal legend James Van Buren up for a jubilant version of the standard “It Could Happen to You.” Turns out that the two, who both had wide grins throughout most of the song, were old friends when they both lived in Wichita.
Following Hahn’s original ballad “Each and Every Day,” Hahn played the head of “All the Things You Are” solo and then the group joined in and came out swinging for the fastest tune of the night. Jenkins, hunched over the piano, banged out an awesome solo while sometimes letting just his right hand dance over the keys. Hahn then dug into his solo, crouching over his guitar and bobbing during some fantastically snappy runs up and down the neck of his guitar.
Hahn introduced the next song, “Time Changes,” as one of the most difficult tunes he’d ever written. Hahn reminisced about how they had a hard time playing it at Trios eleven years ago, and Romaine chimed in, “I just remember we used to laugh a lot.” Although it might’ve been a tough tune, the guys didn’t seem like they were having a hard time with the angular chorus and breaks.
They closed out the set with a lilting mid-tempo jazz waltz on the standard “My Romance,” with Hahn doing some lovely note bending on the melody, something that Pat Metheny does occasionally as well. Metheny, Frisell and John Abercrombie were each influenced by Hahn early on their careers, and after seeing Hahn last Saturday it’s easy to see why those cats dug him.
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: As a jazz guitarist myself, seeing Hahn play up close was definitely inspiring. Random Detail: Hahn played through a JazzKat amp. By the Way: Hahn recorded his first album in 1967 with Jack DeJohnette.