Notes from Mark:
This project started out as a fingerstyle jazz guitar arranging book, but developed into a full-fledged recording project. With the steadfast support of Solid Air Records magnate James Jensen, and my wife and longtime partner Greta Pedersen, this CD came to fruition in the autumn of 2008. It is always a pleasure to work with such great people and such great material: the comment "They don't write 'em like that anymore" contains more than a grain of truth!
The guitar is an amazing instrument for playing multi-voiced arrangements like these. To some degree it is easier to play this kind of material on the piano, but the guitar sounds so great and offers so many nuanced textures and tones. It has been a pleasure to arrange and record these, and a bit of a challenge to play some of them! My arrangement of "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" is dedicated to all of the veterans of the U.S.A. harmed in the service of their country.
Great American Songbook for Guitar
Who puts out 2 CDs at the same time? Someone with a LOT to say. As with his Love Songs for Guitar, Mark Hanson has a plan for Great American Songbook
for Guitar: to show off these great songs with his trademark terffic
arrangements and to let 'er rip with the chops that are held back for
the Love Songs.
The CD gets off to a swinging start with Take the A Train,
where a great walking bass line underpins a series of beautiful chord
melodies. This version has zip, zazz, and pizazz as well as all the
flourish it takes to salute Billy Strayhorn and the great Duke.
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime is an emotional tour de force. As if it were not meaningful enough today, Hanson's interjection of When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again
is a poignant shot to the gut and a reminder of how much worse off are
those who are trapped in war and those who must wait for them. What a
marvelous demonstration of the evocative power of instrumental music!
After that we are ready for something a little lighter, and what song better than Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart?
Here we have more verve and pizazz in the playing, as the bass and
chords fly now in tandem, now in opposition, but always in the service
of this fun song. Hanson zings all six strings along the entire range
of the fretboard.
Georgia brings us yet
another great tune, in a fine arrangement that is both true to the song
and yet Hanson's personal take on it. With its lush tone, this track
could easily have found a home on Love Songs for Guitar, and is one of
several that must have been potential candidates for that CD as well.
The opening notes of the next song get us right In The Mood.
This song has always had a 'guitar' sound to it for me, and Hanson
makes the most of it with a solo arrangement that sounds like an
original guitar boogie. What guitar player is not going to want to play
this arrangement? I won't be the only one hoping for an accompanying
book of transcriptions!
I will admit that I came to Ain't Misbehavin'
with some trepidation. Fats Waller is one of my absolute favourite
songwriters and some guitarists have failed to really do justice to
this masterpiece. Hanson does start off with a slow version, but soon
he treats it to some eccentric triplet-type figures before heading off
to grander territory and then returning to the song with a light bouncy
step. This is the type of playing with the song that Fats Waller did so
well, and it is a treat to hear the song played so well.
We return to the Love Song domain with a lush, romantic version of Angel Eyes.
Once again Hanson conducts a master class in arranging a melody in
contrasting ways to bring out different facets of its character. Plenty
to learn here, and just as much to enjoy.
After the hint of another familiar tune, we find ourselves Swingin' on a Star.
Yet more verve and panache awaits in this jaunty arrangement. The
arrangment features a great duet between chord melody and accompanying
bass, with some extra accompaniment thrown in just for more fun.
Now how could this be the Great American Songbook without Misty?
Here we are treated to a romantic vision of the song that gradually
becomes more ornate without ever losing that classic melody. Another
fine arrangement that would not have been out of place on Love Songs,
at least until the tempo changes and the song's hero / heroine gets a
bit more "pro-active". Great playing!
One classic deserves another (actually a dozen more) and so on to Body and Soul.
Hanson takes his time exploring the possibilities in this melody,
tossing in the occasional unexpected chord, slap harmonic, or bass run
before letting his playing wander farther afield. You will want to let
yourself just drift along and explore this fine song with a guitar
Come Sunday is another
straightforward arrangement that might have been on Love Songs, except
perhaps for the implied love of the lyrics. Still, mighty pretty
All of Me is played with a
light bounce that suits it so well. It gets jauntier and happier as it
goes along, accompanied with the occasional percussive slap. This is a
guitarist who clearly enjoys his 'work'!
The CD ends with with a rumination on Here's That Rainy Day.
Once again a topical reference is hard to avoid these days, but this is
also a classic melody beautifully played, and a classy way to end a
great collection of songs.
So a summary?
A baker's dozen of great songs, well arranged, flawlessly played again.
Any qualms that you might have had about Mark Hanson's chops on Love
Songs will be allayed here. This is a great accompaniment to Love Songs
for Guitar and the only problem might be deciding which to get. I'll
make it easier for you: get them both. They are a bargain, and they
will leave you wanting more!
MARK HANSON, GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK FOR GUITAR
fine acoustic playing is brought to the fore on this album of classics
from the golden age of American songwriting. His instrumental
arrangements of tunes like “Body and Soul” and “Brother, Can You Spare
Me A Dime” are cool and inspiring. Solid Air.
—Art Thompson / GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE