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JAN HAMMER

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Jan Hammer biography
Jan Hammer, Jr. - Born April 17, 1948 (Prague, Czechoslovakia) - US resident since 1968

One of the major keyboard players of the last 35 years, JAN HAMMER has one of the most distinctive sounds and styles in the jazz rock and electronica. Indeed his career can almost be split into the earlier jazz & jazz rock and the later electronica periods, although through his very extensive session work, a man working many fields of music can be heard. As soon as you play one of his own records or one of the many records he has guested, you know immediately he is there.

Jan Hammer was born 17th April 1948, playing piano at the age of four, and by the age of 6 he was receiving formal classical training. At the age of 14 JAN was performing and recording professionally through the former Iron Curtain countries. He formed the JUNIOR TRIO in high school with bassist MIROSLAV VITOUS (future founding member of WEATHER REPORT and drummer ALAN VITOUS. Both JAN and MIROSLAV attended the Prague Academy of Muse Ans, devouring classes in harmony, counterpoint, music history, and classical composition. They both won scholarships to the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and with JAN's arrival in the United States in the summer of 1968, on the heels of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, JAN HAMMER immediately made up his mind to become a U.S. citizen, doing so soon after.

JAN HAMMER is a multi-talented, multi-facetted musician, who's talent range from being keyboardist/conductor with jazz diva SARAH VAUGHAN pre-MAHAVISHNU, to guesting on a thrash metal fusion album by the UK band NETWORK in the mid 90's - and most points in between. He has graced many jazz rock fusion albums of the 70's (playing both keyboards and drums at times), and been most successful in using his musical skills to TV theme music, and shown that this doesn't have to be mediocre wall paper, and so otherwise be easily forgotten.

JAN HAMMER's musical career has been based firmly on developing the classical, jazz and rock repertoire. Following his Berklee period work in the jazz field, he became one of the founder members of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, one of the most successful jazz rock groups of the early 70's. However, during his tenure, he increasingly became frustrated that few of his compositions were used (e.g. 'Sister Andrea'), as was BILLY COBHAM, and at the same time bemused by the spiritual path taken by JOHN MCLAUGHLI...
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JAN HAMMER discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

JAN HAMMER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.07 | 46 ratings
The First Seven Days
1975
4.25 | 72 ratings
Jan Hammer Group: Oh,Yeah?
1976
3.62 | 13 ratings
Jan Hammer Group: Melodies
1977
4.25 | 4 ratings
David Earle Johnson & Jan Hammer: Time Is Free
1978
2.03 | 11 ratings
Black Sheep
1979
3.00 | 5 ratings
Hammer
1979
4.17 | 6 ratings
David Earle Johnson & Jan Hammer: Hip Address
1980
3.03 | 11 ratings
Neal Schon & Jan Hammer: Untold Passion
1981
3.57 | 7 ratings
Neal Schon & Jan Hammer: Here To Stay
1983
1.55 | 10 ratings
Miami Vice - Music From The Television Series (OST)
1985
2.67 | 6 ratings
Snapshots
1989
1.46 | 7 ratings
Beyond The Mind's Eye (OST)
1993
1.52 | 10 ratings
Drive
1994

JAN HAMMER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.71 | 7 ratings
The Jan Hammer Trio: Maliny, Maliny [Aka: Make Love]
1968
4.13 | 6 ratings
Live in New York
2008

JAN HAMMER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

JAN HAMMER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.17 | 3 ratings
The Early Years
1986
3.10 | 10 ratings
Escape from Television
1986
4.33 | 3 ratings
No More Lies (with Neal Schon)
1998
4.00 | 2 ratings
Miami Vice: The Complete Collection
2002
4.50 | 2 ratings
The Best Of Miami Vice
2004

JAN HAMMER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Cocaine Cowboys
2007

JAN HAMMER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The First Seven Days by HAMMER, JAN album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.07 | 46 ratings

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The First Seven Days
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by aldri7

4 stars For a couple of years while I was finishing up with college (around 1975), Jan Hammer was "it". It was a transitional time in jazz, and while Mahavishnu was already starting to wane, Grover Washington and smooth jazz were coming on strong. Meanwhile, Jan hung in there and produced a couple of stunningly original albums - this one and "Oh Yeah". In retrospect, their place in the grand scheme of things fusion-wise was quixotic yet curiously enduring. They kind of stand alone as a testament to the times and foreshadowed later developments in electronic music with a kind of naive yet charming simplicity. I was pretty much like Jan and his music too - bold, at times a bit crass, but never dull - and so I really dug it.

Anyway, but "simple" is not really an appropriate term to use here. "The First Seven Days" is harmonically rich and paints dense, exotic colors with what electronic sounds were available at the time. It's really a series of vignettes or soundscapes with structure, each dealing with one aspect of the story of creation. Taken as a whole, this is Jan Hammer in all his glory - spacey, technically brilliant, funky, tender and unabashedly 70's in all its bold colors. Darkness/Earth in search of Sun starts things off well with a good old fashioned jam after an ominous, dark start. Light/Sun features Jan on piano and reminds me of the Mahavishnu Jan we all loved so well. His keyboard work has always been instantly identifiable. Next up is Oceans and Continents, one of my favorite tracks. Jan's soaring Moog hovers over a simple piano line, and the result is peaceful and tells a timeless story. The first side concludes with "Fourth Day - Plants and Trees, possibly his best work on the album. All of Jan's compositional skills and technical prowess are on display here as he temporarily shelves the Moog in this short but elegant piece.

Side two gets you rolling with a fun number, "Animals". It seems the animal life evoked a bit of funk and tribal drumming in Jan. You can almost see the chimps, zebras and gazelles strutting their stuff. "The Sixth Day-The People" seems to evoke a sunrise and indeed likely deals with the subject of the emergence of man. It feels like the animals are suddenly uncertain as to their future now. Will this spell their demise? Humans have now arrived on the scene, and you can almost imagine those first important questions are being asked here - who am I? How did I get here?

The final track, "the Seventh Day" is suitably grand and a wonderful way to close the album. It is resolute and builds to a terrific climax. What we've just witnessed is the work of a superior being, and its hand touches us all with spiritual enlightenment. Uplifting and proud, it marks the close of this notable album. "The First Seven Days" is ambitious, entertaining and a quintessentially charming example of that mind altering mid 70's era and the "dawn of the synthesizer age". Thank you, Jan - I wore this record out!!

 Jan Hammer Group: Oh,Yeah? by HAMMER, JAN album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.25 | 72 ratings

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Jan Hammer Group: Oh,Yeah?
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by aglasshouse

5 stars Mahavishnu Orchestra's first (and arguably most prolific) incarnation came to a painful end in 1973, as a sudden rise in popularity and a series of calamitous recording failures suddenly turned the great Mahavishnu into less of what they originally were into more or less the John McLaughlin Group. The band's original lineup, however, was so bursting-at-the-seams with talent and skill that it's members couldn't help but go on to form formidable solo careers -- Billy Cobham would traverse the jazz fusion path himself with Spectrum in 1973, and Jan Hammer, after collaborating with fellow musician Jerry Goodman, debuted his own solo material with The First Seven Days in 1975.

The album was well-received, and showcased the excellent skill Hammer obviously had. He continued on with the jazz- fusion shtick until the 80's, where he found himself composing film and television scores for such programs as Miami Vice. For the time being however Hammer really got in the swing of things and, not but a year later, delivered the facetiously titled Oh, Yeah? in 1976.

It's common for musicians to take an album or two to really get going, and get going Hammer did. Oh, Yeah? is a romp through some of the most thought-provoking and challenging sides of the jazz rock genre, whether it be the thumping bass/timbale combination of 'Bambu Forest', the eclectic and insane callbacks to Mahavishnu on 'Twenty One', or the driving openers and closers, 'Magical Dog' and 'Red and Orange', respectively. Almost every single song has something different to say in their own right, such as the throwing in of drummer Tony Smith's soulful vocals on 'One To One'. Jan Hammer and his band utilize an almost proto-80s synth culture to design Oh, Yeah? to be a sort of generational bridge that sits on neither side of the waters. A culture clash it may be, but it's a good one. Jan Hammer himself is the main pioneer in this regard, and with his effective use of a gamut of different synthesizing and keyboard effects it's easy to see why his more progressive electronic leanings make a greater impact than the likes of new age artists like Jean Michel Jarre did.

Towering and powerful, Oh, Yeah? is a can't-miss album, not only of the jazz fusion genre but of 70's music in general. It is the definition of a passion-project and is justly the penultimate release of Hammer's career.

 The First Seven Days by HAMMER, JAN album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.07 | 46 ratings

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The First Seven Days
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Suedevanshoe

5 stars Jan Hammer blazes a new trail on his first solo album post-Mahavishnu. "The First Seven Days" is a very compelling listen. Instead of in your face jazzrock, Hammer goes progtronica.

The titles of the songs and the elastic mood of the music does a terrific job portraying the concept of the beginning of the world laid out in the Christian Bible. Hammer is about the only musician you hear, except for an extra percussionist on two tracks and a violin on four tracks.

Every note is quality. I should think most discerning prog listeners would put this somewhere from good to great, in my house it's great. Definitely a mood piece though, when taken cover to cover.

For some reason, this album has always reminded me of the album "Layers" by Les McCann. Probably because they're both one man synth mood workouts, probably because they are both in my top 50 albums.

 Jan Hammer Group: Oh,Yeah? by HAMMER, JAN album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.25 | 72 ratings

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Jan Hammer Group: Oh,Yeah?
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Jan Hammer unleashes a funky style of fusion on Oh Yeah? which sets it aside from his previous solo effort (The First Seven Days), which was a more laid back affair. Whereas on The First Seven Days Hammer seemed to be working through some ideas which wouldn't have fit in the Mahavishnu context, here Hammer produces his own vision of where the Mahavishnu Orchestra's style of vision might have developed. (Notably, there's actual guitar this time around courtesy of Steve Kindler, though Hammer does use his synths to create a faux-guitar effect once again here too.) Invigorating stuff which will appeal to Mahavishnu Orchestra fans, though as far as funk-fusion in general goes it has quite a bit of work before it hits the standard of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters work.
 Jan Hammer Group: Oh,Yeah? by HAMMER, JAN album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.25 | 72 ratings

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Jan Hammer Group: Oh,Yeah?
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars It's Hammer time ! Oh yeah it is (groan). Sorry about that I just couldn't resist. I have to agree with Dick and Slarts on their thoughts and rating for this one.This is the [&*!#] people. I must say I was very surprised with this one after spending considerable time wih his previous album "The First Seven Days".That was such a laid back and subtle album, very intricate and very far away from what Jan's previous band MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was doing. Well "Oh, Yeah ?" is very MAHAVISHNU-like. Actually it's like a MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA / Herbie Hancock hybrid. This is energetic, dynamic and lights out good. We even get a composition from Rick Laird.The drumming from Tony Smith is unbeliveable, and Steven Kindler on violin simply shreds. We get a percussionist as well, and then there is Hammer with his variety of keyboards and synths. He has this Minimoog-Oberheim synth combination that sounds just like a guitar.

"Magical Dog" has this fantastic keyboard intro as the violin comes and goes. Nice prominant bass too. It's all so crisp and intricate. A calm with electric piano and violin follows. Nice. Percussion joins in then it kicks back in around 2 1/2 minutes.This is an amazing section. It sounds like guitar before 5 minutes.

"One To One" is a vocal track with a funky groove. What up ! "Evolve" is the Laird composition.The bass, percussion and electric piano sound amazing.Violin joins in then check out the drumming before 1 1/2 minutes.Violin then leads, then synths, then back to violin. Electric piano and percussion end it.

"Oh,Yeah ?" opens with drums as bass and electric piano join in. Synths too in this catchy song. Violin after 3 minutes. Drums and vocal expressions end it. Nice. "Bambu Forest" is probably my favourite. It's dark and powerful to start and very MAHAVISHNU-like. Love the drum work here. It sounds like guitar wailing away before 2 minutes as it continues for some time.Violin 3 1/2 minutes in.

"Twenty One" has some incredible violin and drumming in it early on.The violin is ripping it up.The synths and drums lead before 3 1/2 minutes. Man this song is a show-case for the drummer. Amazing ! "Let The Children Grow" opens with piano as the vocals join in. It's fuller before 1 1/2 minutes as the contrasts continue. A catchy tune.

"Red And Orange" opens with some killer drum and bass work. Electric piano joins in then violin and percussion. Powerful stuff. Some crazy synths 6 minutes in. A top three track for me.

A must for JRF types.

 The First Seven Days by HAMMER, JAN album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.07 | 46 ratings

BUY
The First Seven Days
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I wasn't expecting this when I picked this up. The former keyboardist for MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA has created an album here that is almost the polar oposite to what his former band used to release. Maybe that isn't too surprising since they didn't breakup in exactly the best of terms as it seemed to be a McLaughlin versus the rest of the band attitude before they folded the tent. So yeah none of that high energy, intense fusion that we were used to hearing. I always think of this guy that came in my store a few years ago and we got talking about music and MAHAVISHNU ORHESTRA came up and he related how he couldn't listen to "Birds Of Fire" all the way through because it just too much for him. I was grinning when he told me that. It was just too overwelming for him. He should listen to "The First Seven Days" because this is about as laid back as your going to get. In fact I kept thinking of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays' "When Witchita Falls..." album. This was the first record Jan produced for himself in his newly built studio in his home in upstate New York.This is all about Hammer and the variety of keyboards he employed including piano, Fender Rhodes, electric piano, moog, sequencers, synths, string synths and mellotron. While I wouldn't call this a mellotron album it is on all but one track but it's used in the background usually. I do like when the mellotron choirs come to the fore though.There is a guest percussionist and violinist helping out as well.

"Darkness / Earth In Search Of Sun" opens with a spacey atmosphere including mellotron.The synths start to kick in before 2 1/2 minutes followed by drums as the atmosphere disappears.Great sound ! Jan describes this song as feeling like your lost groping in the dark when suddenly this gigantic globe which is slowly spinning reveals itself. "Light / Sun" opens with piano then it turns spacey before 2 minutes as the piano stops.The tempo picks up 4 minutes in then back to that spacey sound after 5 1/2 minutes.

"Oceans And Continents" is as Jan describes "Probably the most visual piece on the whole album, this goes back to Van Gogh, painting vast brush strokes from left to right and as far as the eye can see, a landscape painting". Piano to start then these intricate sounds come in after 2 minutes. "Fourth Day-Plants And Trees" is a short, laid back piece that reminds Jan of his homeland. "The Animals" is percussion and synths led early on. Cool sound. A change 4 minutes in as it becomes a little more aggressive.

"Sixth Day- The People" is as Jan describes it "turning from pure acoustic into a much more lush electric thing, the entrance of people, humans". Mellotron ends this one in style. "The Seventh Day" is Jan's ode to joy so he says. Piano to start then it becomes fuller a minute in. Nice. Even fuller 5 1/2 minutes in.

A good album that i have to be in the right mood for. A low 4 stars but this one is an interesting and laid back listen.

 Black Sheep by HAMMER, JAN album cover Studio Album, 1979
2.03 | 11 ratings

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Black Sheep
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

2 stars Please, Hammer, don't hurt us!

I can sort of understand what Jan hammer was trying to do on this album. Up to this point, he had been primarily playing fusion. But here he wanted to establish himself as a rock synthesist. And he almost succeeds. On Jet Stream, Heavy Love and Jimi Hendrix' own Manic Depression, he actually achieves a Hendrix-like tone. His problem is that his songs kind of suck. Lyrically lame, and dead sounding in production, I wonder if raising Jimi himself from the dead could have helped this album.

Besides a few decent solos, Light Of Dawn, a ballad is not bad. It sounds similar to some of the ballads Jack Bruce has recorded over the years.

My LP, bought used decades ago, still has the fifty cent price tag on it. I wonder if I paid too much.

 Live in New York by HAMMER, JAN album cover Live, 2008
4.13 | 6 ratings

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Live in New York
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by DoctorNerve

4 stars Truely epic solos from Jan Hammer on this release. Red and Orange is simply on fire. Hammer throws down some fantastic solos. Steve Kindler lays down some impressive violin solos as well. Tony Smith is superb throughout. I Remember Me is another highlight for me. The drums and interplay are top notch. If you want to pick up some Jan Hammer post Mahavishnu Orchestra this is a good one to get. The only problem I have is the obvious editing on a few tracks... plus you just know there is more music out there from this show they had to have dropped for the release. HOT!
 The First Seven Days by HAMMER, JAN album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.07 | 46 ratings

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The First Seven Days
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Koper

5 stars Wonderful album, one of the all-time greats in progressive music (at least in this jazz-rock oriented sub-genre) and, in my opinion, highly underestimated. It would be, however, classified predominantly as progressive-electronic because the presence of fusion and jazz elements is more difficult to observe than in other Jan Hammer's albums (most significantly audible in "Plant and Trees" and "Animals"). Fortunately, Jan Hammer decided to resign here from the exploration of funky-territory and soul-like vocals like on albums "Like Children" and "Oh-Yeah!". "First Seven Days" is archetypical concept-album, where the myth of world creation from Holy Bible's Genesis is illustrated by seven tracks (days), different in terms of moods and styles. All tracks are clear-instrumental, full of strong melodies and complex rhythms. Opening ("Darkness") and final ("The Seventh Day") are exceptionally beautiful and emotional. Sound landscapes and sonoric detailsare highly refined as for 1975. Masterpiece, five stars.
 Drive by HAMMER, JAN album cover Studio Album, 1994
1.52 | 10 ratings

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Drive
Jan Hammer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

1 stars "Please Hammer, don't hurt us!"

Well there's not much chance of getting hurt from this handful of cotton balls that Jan Hammer is lobbing at us on this album. Yes, the once fiery keyboardist is now serving up ladles of cold bland soup. Even the presence of the great guitarist and long time Hammer cohort Jeff Beck can't raise the level of this turkey. Just turn on the weather channel, or that channel that only shows automated weather maps of your area, and listen to the bland background dreck. Quiet Storm? This isn't even a light drizzle. I know Hammer can do better than this.

Thanks to dick heath for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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