Neurodisc 2003
7243 5 90025 2 1
artist website
Without Words was Eric Hansen's 2001 debut release, a masterful, multi-tracked solo guitar showcase that sported immaculate original compositions and a marvellous arrangement of Bryan Adams' "Have You Really Ever Loved A Woman". 2002's Romancero cashed in on the popularity of Hansen's earlier love song arrangement by following up with an essentially all-standards album including such hits as "Fields of Golds", "Sailing", "Killing Me Softly" and "The Look of Love". Though brilliant in its very classical approach to complex instrumentation, the focus on such well-known material seemed a bit of a step-back considering this musician/composer's obvious creative talents. This year's Colores del Alma returns him full circle to Without Words, albeit at an even higher level of stylistic variety and high-speed prowess Jorge Strunz style.

A regular live performer at Florida's upscale Caffe Luna Rosa Italian restaurant in Delray Beach [below], Eric Hansen studied Classical and Jazz guitar at Florida Atlantic University and also performed Flamenco in a Spanish guitar duo during college. He concluded his formal studies at the New England Conservatory's masters program for Classical guitar but finds his first love in a unique crossover blend that mixes Classical, Jazz, Flamenco and, on his latest, even Cuban and Brazilian-inspired, replete with deftly realized horn arrangements by Ed Calle on "Playa Delray" and "Salsera".

Like J.K. Rowling whose boundless imagination, in Harry Potter, created the biggest literary phenomenon in recent memory, so does Hansen retain your attention and curiosity from track to track, something that sadly eluded The Gipsy King's lead guitarist on his eponymous solo debut Tonino Baliardo [Nonesuch 79537-2] and has similarly afflicted Armik whose numerous releases have degenerated into carbon copies. With respectful but clearly unique nods to Strunz & Farah, this guitarist's harmonic sophistication and purity of delivery -- clearly the beneficiary of a solid classical foundation that demands not only precision but sets high standards for compositional structure -- make him a unique entry in the overgrazed nouveau flamenco category.

As you'd expect from Eric's chosen beach culture domicile facing Cuba and The Bahamas, his music exudes a sunny, easy listening vibe with swingin' rhythms, expansive melodies and crafty compositional touches that include a Rumba flamenco makeover of J.S. Bach's piano intro to his Prelude & Fugue in C Minor. While, as the Gipsies say, anyone can learn to play like greased lightning if they just practice long and hard enough -- think erstwhile demon Al DiMeola -- the musicians who can put their craft truly in the service of the music are far fewer. Eric Hansen's first and foremost a very gifted composer/arranger who so happens to also possess the handyman tools of the trade stuck in his belt. Using Ramirez and Pedro Maldonado flamenco and Robert Ruck Classical guitars, he erects not only cozy, warm, inviting, 'liveable' soundscapes, but does so with uptown finesse and cosmopolitan flair that relocate into fancier and fancier neighborhoods as his albums progress. Call it a fortuitous meeting of mature chops and artistic intelligence. In short, if you love the kind of guitar music that rose like a tidal wave in the wake of the Gipsy Kings from Arles, put this one on your list. It acknowledges precedents but carves out its own unique and very tasty niche as did Frenchman Eric Fernandez before. Encore, Monsignor Hansen! What'll be on your menu next? Whatever it is, count me in.