A Hand Across Time
Across Time Frederic Hand, guitar. Lesley Hand, vocalist. ReEntrant 02 Total Time: 51:54 Recording: ****/**** Performance: ****/****
Guitarist Fredric Hand gained international attention when he performed on the soundtrack for Kramer vs. Kramer. It is hard to believe that some 30 years has passed since this reviewer first experienced Frederic Hand’s Jazzantiqua album and later Heart’s Song. A student of Julian Bream, Hand carried on that tradition of exploring earlier works for lute and guitar and brought that same language to his original work. He has been performing with the Metropolitan Opera for over four decades. Blending ancient modes and musical gestures with modern instrumentation made these earlier forays an engaging experience. Hand would release other albums that blurred the new distinction between classical and jazz or popular music in what would eventually be lumped into a “New Age” category. In Across Time, Hand provides us with a reminder of his excellent skill and melding classical gestures, ancient modes, and a fine sense of melodic and harmonic development.
Across Time is a collection that includes a nice cross-section of new pieces as well as a couple that have appeared on previous releases. The album opens with three more classical works composed in 2021. “Renewal” kicks things off rather nicely inviting us into the beautiful tonal world and harmonic shifts Hand likes to use. It moves us into an interesting homage and exploration of South American rhythmic ideas in the equally reflective “Ballade for Astor Piazzolla”. His wife, Lesley, joins him for three beautiful songs based on texts by Shakespeare and Marsilio Ficino. The texts and reflective style lend a sort of deeper release that comes on the heels of loss in the wake of COVID these past couple of years. “I Am” is particularly touching. A gorgeous “Romantic Etude” provides another beautiful lyrical melody with Hand’s unique harmonic changes that engage the listener. The same could be said as well of “Waltz For Maurice”. Hand also explores American folk music in his own setting of the Shaker tune, “Simple Gifts”. The album closes with a shift to reflecting on natural beauty in “Cooper Lake”, inspired by his trips to the Catskills.
To help fill out this brief release, we are treated to new re-mastered recordings from his 1982 Trilogy album. These include the three-movement title work and the equally fine “Late One Night” both composed in 1977. These pieces provide a glimpse into the jazz and harmonic styles that marked his work in this period. It helps provide a good arc that connects well with the theme of the album which both shows him thinking and reflecting on the passing of time.
Across Time is its own gift both for those who have followed Hand’s previous releases and for those who may be discovering his work for the first time. It is recorded with a fine ambience that lends the instrument a rich tone without being too close to hear every movement. An intimate album that works quite well as a fine time to take stock and reflect. Lesley Hand’s vocals are equally wonderful with a pure tone that floats above the guitar accompaniment. This album is highly recommended and one you will likely return to often.