By SAMIR H. KÖCK
Doug Hammond enjoyed his late fame at Vienna’s Jazzland.
Everything’s just like it has always been at the oldest jazz club in the city: Frau Helga sits at the entrance, diligently solving crossword puzzles; near the bar, the maître d’ Axel Melhardt is deeply engrossed in the world of tabloid dailies. Situated between these monoliths of absent-minded perception on Monday evening were amazingly many young people listening to a veteran of the American Black jazz scene: the poet, drummer and composer Doug Hammond, who was billed as a “rising star” in the program.
Yes, even someone in their mid-sixties should be ready to suddenly become famous. And truly, the Floridian living in Linz is once again popular. Recently his legendary album “Reflections in the Sea of Nurnen” was re-released, and, with “A Real Deal” he has brought out an amazingly fresh-sounding album on the French label “Heavenly Sweetness,” which features several of his current poems he set to music together with the pianist Kirk Lightsey. The later descendant of the “Harlem Renaissance” American literary movement just doesn’t let go.
But he came to Jazzland on a purely musical mission with the bassist Steven Wood and the great sounding trumpeter Dwight Adams. The beautiful performance took off in a sophisticatedly grooving way with Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low,” a tune that, attired in a Latinesque dress, danced itself into consciousness.
“I can’t dedicate enough”
Hammond, who has also played with Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and Nina Simone in his long career, is one of those jazz musicians who, as a solo artist, has been closely connected to African-American independent labels like Strata East Records. Yes, he even attempted it himself as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, his label “Idibib” wasn’t granted a long life on the harsh free market. Even more important were the friendships he made with colleagues. Rhythm makers Max Roach and Cozy Cole were his mentors; he dedicated the most tender drum solo imaginable to them. In fact, he dedicates almost every piece to someone. Once it was to saxophonist Sonny Fortune, then to one of his daughters. “I can’t dedicate enough, because there are so many people in the world,” he said insightfully.
This time he was endeavoured to let the spark of romanticism ignite. With the heartfelt “Singing Smiles”, for instance, or with the always powerfully affecting melody of “Body and Soul”.