Blue Escape - front cover

Hank Hehmsoth – Blue Escape: Exclusive interview

Hank Hehmsoth – Blue Escape

Label Records: Time Space Fabrics

Release date: March 14, 2024

Ogni riproduzione è vietata senza citare la nostra fonte: Jazz in Family

Jazz in Family: Hank, it’s a pleasure to have you with us today. Let’s dive right in. You’re known for seamlessly integrating music and visual art. Can you share with us how this unique approach came about and how it influences your creative process?

Hank Hehmsoth: Thank you, Mario, for having me. My journey into integrating music and visual art began with a fascination for the interconnectedness of different forms of artistic expression. I’ve always been drawn to both music and painting, and over time, I found ways to bring these passions together. When I compose music, I often visualize colors, shapes, and textures that complement the sonic landscape I’m creating. This visualization process informs not only my compositions but also my painting. Conversely, my experiences as a painter influence the way I approach improvisation and composition in music. It’s a symbiotic relationship that enriches both mediums and allows me to explore new dimensions of creativity.

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Jazz: Your latest album, ‘Blu-Escape,’ has been highly anticipated. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the album and what listeners can expect from it?

Hank: ‘Blu-Escape’ represents the culmination of my creativity over the past few years, blending my passion for music and visual art into a singular experience. The title itself has layers of meaning, hinting at the color blue, the notion of embarking on a sonic voyage, and an expansive landscape painted in blues. Drawing from a variety of influences, the album reflects my humor with titles like ‘Chernobyl Cha Cha’ and ‘Phooie’, a nod to my father’s humor – he was 66 when I was born!

Tracks such as ‘Roomba’s Rumble’ pay homage to the everyday humble robotic vacuum, while ‘Turquoise Rendezvous’ reminisces about a romantic interlude in Santa Fe. I even dedicated a piece to my beloved cat, ‘Sophie’s Danse’. Musically, ‘Blu-Escape’ is a fabric woven from jazz, world music, and avant-garde threads. Our indie label is Time Space Fabrics, so it all inevitably fits. Complementing each track is a visual artwork, immersing the listener in a multisensory journey. With ‘Blu-Escape’, I invite the listener to discover where music and art converge in contemporary jazz.

With attention to detail at every turn, the album, recorded, mixed, and mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London for listeners’ ears in Apple ALAC High Def 24-bit 96 kHz and Apple Spatial Audio in distribution. From the initial spark of composition to a year of live performances with Double Vision, every facet of this recording has been nurtured with care by an exceptional team of artists and engineers, resulting in a truly remarkable masterpiece. It’s available on Apple Music and Qobuz, as well as Spotify.

Jazz: You recently released four other albums simultaneously. How did this all happen at once?

Hank: I’ve had the privilege of releasing several albums as a bandleader, each representing a unique chapter in my musical journey. Among them are the self-titled ‘Hank Hehmsoth – Piano’, ‘Exit’, ‘A Night of Chick Corea Jazz’, and ‘Night Rhythms’. These albums were special to me as they were recordings made with my beloved piano trio. However, the past decade brought unexpected challenges as both my bassist, Spencer Starnes, and drummer, Scott Laningham, passed away suddenly. Their loss was deeply felt, and it left me grappling with grief and uncertainty.

As a result, I made the decision to keep these albums locked away in my ‘vault’, unable to face the memories they held. It’s only recently that I’ve found the courage to revisit these recordings and share them with the world. Despite the pain associated with their creation, I’m incredibly proud of the music captured on these albums. They showcase the breadth of my artistic expression, ranging from moments of sublime introspection to displays of virtuosity in my early playing. Releasing them now feels like honoring the legacy of Spencer and Scott while also reclaiming a part of my own musical history.

Hank Hehmsoth on Piano
Hank Hehmsoth on Piano

Jazz: Could you share some insights about your new band?

Hank: Absolutely. Our project together is Double Vision, a quartet that emerged onto the scene in 2022. What sets us apart is our collaborative approach at the core. We’re not confined by traditional genre boundaries; instead, we weave together elements of “cool, contemporary, and contagious” jazz. With John Mills on sax and flute, Utah Hamrick on bass, and Aaron Easley on drums, each member brings their unique flair to the table. Drawing inspiration from a diverse range of influences, including contemporary art music, jazz, and world music, I craft compositions tailored to each individual in the group, allowing ample space for improvisation. The result is a fusion of exotic grooves, dynamic improvisations, and limitless creativity that defines our music. We just finished a jazz showcase performance at SXSW2024.

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Jazz: Your commitment to pushing artistic boundaries is evident in your body of work. What drives you to continually explore new territories in your music and art?

Hank: For me, creativity is about constant exploration and discovery. I’m always seeking new ways to express myself and to challenge the conventions of both music and visual art. I believe that innovation comes from pushing beyond our comfort zones and embracing the unknown. Whether it’s experimenting with unconventional chord progressions, blending different musical styles, or exploring new techniques in painting, I’m driven by a desire to evolve as an artist and to share my unique perspective with others.

Jazz: You’ve received numerous awards and accolades throughout your career. How do these recognitions impact your approach to your craft, if at all?

Hank: While awards and recognition are certainly affirming, my approach to my craft remains rooted in a personal drive for self-expression and artistic exploration. I’m grateful for the validation that comes with receiving awards, but ultimately, my focus is on the process of creating and sharing meaningful work with others. That being said, these accolades do serve as a reminder of the impact that my music and art can have on audiences, which motivates me to continue pushing the boundaries of creativity.
(note: Hank has been honored with a MacDowell Norton Stevens Fellowship in Composition, received two NEA Fellowship grants in Jazz Composition, and was twice awarded Fulbright Senior Jazz Specialist grants in American Studies, which involved international travel. Additionally, he has received the ASCAP Plus Award for Jazz Composition in 2024. His creative portfolio includes commissions for documentaries, ballets, musicals, string quartets, and film scores.)

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Jazz: What’s next for you on the horizon?

Hank: My goal is to continue to grow and evolve as an artist. I will dive deeper into my music and visual art, exploring new techniques and mediums in both the canvas and with my band to expand my creative palette. I have my next album in process. If I had my way, I’d record an album every year. This is what I want to do!

Jazz: Thanks, Hank!

Blue Escape - front cover
Blue Escape – front cover

Note:

For a quick taste of Hank’s work, try his YouTube channel playlist of shorts: https://www.youtube.com/@HanksJazz/shorts

Get Hank’s albums on
Apple: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/hank-hehmsoth/1610593412
Qobuz: https://www.qobuz.com/us-en/interpreter/hank-hehmsoth/21634761
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6MR0ifW0I4byz0983Yrw73

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