Sometimes, the right song comes along at just the right time. One Song by Vinyl Hampdin, is a proverbial primal scream in song form, the words and theme inspired by Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot speech. Steve Wiest’s composition is an inspiring reminder that our planet is one mere tiny spec in the universe, that we transcend (and will hopefully survive) the moment of our present crisis. The spirits that are larger than ourselves are incomprehensible, but the need for communion is primal. Surely, there must exist a greater intelligence, on earth or beyond, than what humanity has wrought lately. Fans of classic horns bands are no strangers to music that asks us to challenge assumptions about the ways in which we live and ask why we contribute to the destruction of what should be precious. One Song carries on in that tradition of consciousness-raising.
If the Earth could talk, she might ask..
Can you hear me?
I’m calling you
Please don’t leave me alone
One Song carries a poignant message for sure. It is also simply great music performed by virtuoso musicians. So, who is Vinyl Hampdin? Vinyl Hampdin is a brand new horn band, a venerable supergroup, the brainchild of trombonist/composer/arranger Steve Wiest, the Co-Chair of Jazz Studies, Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. Vinyl Hampdin also features Chicago’s Ray Herrmann (woodwinds), Art Bouton (woodwinds), Frank David Greene (trumpet), Ryan Davidson (guitar), Eric Gunnison, (keyboards), Stockton Helbing (drums), Gerald Stockton (bass), and Lisa Dodd Watts (vocals). Some might be familiar with Wiest’s previous projects or his stint touring with trumpet legend Maynard Ferguson. His genre-bending concept album from 2014, Concerto For Folded Space, a soundtrack to his science-fiction novel, The Dover Stone, is an aural adventure that enthralls fans of progressive rock, fusion, and contemporary classical music, and also features some notable Chicago guest stars: Jimmy Pankow, Keith Howland, and Jason Scheff.
The cinematic drama of One Song, a very visual approach to writing and arranging that is characteristically Wiestian, evokes a sense of wonder for the great unknown. The flutes of Ray Herrmann and Art Bouton add a lightness of being, representative of an exemplary way for compassionate human beings to walk and live on this planet, a foil to the heavy-handed authoritarianism we now sadly witness. Collectively, the horn section carries on in the traditions of Chicago, Tower of Power, and Blood Sweat & Tears, playing as a cohesive section to create a huge sound that is larger than the sum of its parts. Dual woodwinds opens up further possibilities of texture and harmony within their arrangements, in the studio and live. The rhythm section, anchored by the jazzy touch of Gerald Stockton on bass, and raucous but tight drumming of Stockton Helbing, keeps the band in the pocket. The searing guitar of Ryan Davidson is a cleansing release of righteous anger. The gritty vocals of Lisa Dodd Watts are so impactful that surely the SETI Institute should use them to communicate with the intelligent life out there.
Vinyl Hampdin has now released six videos, all free on the internet, and will return to the studio this summer to record more tracks with an eventual release on physical media (vinyl!! and compact disc). Their first round of releases shows the diversity of their repertoire. An added bonus with this visual presentation of new music is the beautifully saturated cinematography of Andy Laviolette.
So far, they’ve covered Paul McCartney’s My Love and Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, both unpredictable arrangements of 70s classics; paid tribute to the 2016 World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs, with Diamonds; delved deep into funky fusion with Flowers on the Wall, and more. Vinyl Hampdin hopes to tour in the future, a very exciting prospect, especially for the chance to show off the considerable improvisational abilities of this band. Look no further than Eric Gunnison’s piano solo below for some hard evidence! For now, please visit (https://www.vinylhampdin.com/) for more music videos and information about this unique project. Be sure to follow them on Facebook as well at (https://www.facebook.com/vinylhampdin/).
Steve Wiest is a modern-day Renaissance man, learn more about all of his work at (http://steve-wiest.com/).