“Solace” is Doug Hammer’s first solo piano CD, and a beautiful beginning it is! Hammer started playing the piano at the age of three and started lessons at six, going on to graduate from the Berklee School of Music. Hammer has his own production studio near Boston called Dreamworld Productions and Design, and has worked with many musicians as well as the media with commercial jingles, voiceovers, and film and video scores. Many years in the making, “Solace” is the first of several solo piano CDs in the works, and is clearly the work of an accomplished composer and musician. Serene, soothing, and uplifting, Hammer keeps a consistent mood throughout the CD that is a suitable backdrop for other activities, but each piece is strong and individual for the more focused listener. The pieces in the first half of the album seem to be a bit more classically structured while the second half is more spontaneous.
The CD begins with “Unfolding,” a tranquil piece with a gentle flow and a beautiful melody. A few scattered notes in the deep bass of the piano provide drama, but not jarringly so. “Sunrise” has a quiet, optimistic grace that grows as the piece evolves. “Flying High” provides a very calming effect with its rubato flow and open structure. “Gabrielle” is a tender piece that spills over with peaceful contentment. “A Warm Place In Winter” has a high snuggle factor. Its warm and inviting comfort brings a smile and a sigh. “Emmanuelle” is a tender love song that conveys both gentleness and strength. “A Dream I Once Lived In” is one of my favorite tracks. Reflective and somewhat bittersweet, it paints a vivid picture of experiences from the past. I also really like “Soliloquy.” As the title implies, it has the clarity and honesty of a personal truth. “Sorrow” is the standout track for me. Very spare on notes but full of poignance and deep emotion, it feels like a late-night session at the piano, playing in the dark or by candlelight. This is the kind of piece that reminds me why I love the piano so much. “All These Moments Will Be Gone” shares quiet musings at the piano. Reflective and sincere, it seems to come from the depths of Hammer’s soul. “The Way Things Must Be” is more resigned, but without negativity. “The Road Home” is unhurried, but moves forward with a gradually intensifying sense of anticipation and excitement, bringing the CD to a rich and satisfying close.
“Solace” is indeed a very promising debut, and we’ll look forward to whatever Doug Hammer has up his sleeve next! “Solace” is available from www.doughammer.net , cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. Recommended! Kathy Parsons 1/28/08
Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions