Jim Hagen – Jim Hagen (2014)

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A guitarist from Kansas City now residing in California, Jim Hagen creates a gentle jazz funk — yet it has a mild edginess to it at times, making it far from complete easy listening. On this self-titled release, he teams with Rod Bennett on vibraphones and one Dr. Rhythm on drums.

Jim Hagen opens with “On The Scene,” a tight, laid-back tune that’s augmented by a vibe solo midway through from Bennett. “Winter Storm” develops a plaintive melody thread right the way through. “Midnight Drive” is next, with a bass line that is hard to get out of your head. The tune builds to become a dialogue between guitar, drums and vibes. The laid-back “Walk With You” follows, then the driving beat of “Friday at Five,” which has rhythmic overtones supported by vibe and drums underneath.

This contrasts deliciously with the next track, “Piece of Cake,” which is gentle and easy on the ears. There is a lovely vibe section in the middle. “Rock Heaven,” “See You Next Spring” and “Have Faith” follow, and the album ends with the acoustic track “Sincerely” — which, though only just over a minute and half in length, is a wonderful, easy way to finish Jim Hagen.

Hagen has been playing since he was 10, and it shows. He later studied classical guitar at Penn Valley College and the Kansas City Conservatory of Music. With his band Prophet, he opened for major artists including John Kay and Steppenwolf, Jeff Berlin and Bill Bruford. When he moved to California in the 1980s, he formed Arroyo Culture, which played numerous clubs in Hollywood and Los Angeles. Hagen continued to study classical guitar with Robert Vaught and jazz guitar with Ron Anthony, who played for Frank Sinatra and Riner Scivally.

Later, Hagen began to really appreciate jazz and to include jazz numbers in his repertoire. He began composing his own tunes, as well as playing original tracks. Today, he composes and records original songs and performs with his band, Hagen Jazz. Meanwhile, Bennett began studying drums and later mallet percussion. He attended DePaul University and performed with jazz, blues and rock groups and orchestras. He spent a year at London’s Royal College of Music and has performed with many different groups but jazz has always been his passion.

Together, they’ve created something special. Hagen shows here that he is a guitarist who can switch from electric guitar to bass, to acoustic and keyboards with ease. Jim Hagen is gentle on the ears, but has a clarity to the music with the musicians totally engaged. Hagen composed all the music and he has an ear for a good melody. He has also found in Bennett a willing accomplice in crafting easy, gorgeously produced music.

Sammy Stein

Sammy Stein

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Sammy Stein
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