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Stephie Hacker

Primary Instrument: Vocalist

Born: July 24    

Stephie Hacker

Viennese pianist, singer and composer Stephanie Hacker melts personal feelings with unaffected words and transparent music into a compilation of touching songs. The musician, educated in classical music and jazz, takes influences of these styles and mixes them with pop-sounds and modern grooves – and at the same time leaves much space for improvisation. But the main aspect of her music remains the song itself. In her performances Stephie Hacker concentrates her emotions onstage in her singing and piano playing.

After her highly successful debut album Sensibility (2011), Lower Austrian musician Stephie Hacker returns with Cascade Effect – an even more impressive jazz album, featuring a wealth of melodic material and strongly poetic lyrics. The domino effect is unstoppable. The singer, pianist and composer Hacker traveled to New York in 2012, quickly made musical contacts, went on the search for new experiences and inspiration (interdisciplinary, as it were), wrote a few songs and recorded them with Pete McCann (guitar), Dan Fabricatore (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums). Apparently it's just that simple. In the end, Stephie Hacker packed eleven songs onto the CD – and not one of them sounds weak or like filler material, even after repeated listening. Cascade Effect will appeal to all those with a taste for arrangements without pointless embellishments and to anyone who prefers their jazz without the prefix “smooth”. The songs are built around distinctive melodies and poetic lyrics: after her impressive debut, Hacker has managed to deliver an even stronger second work. Pain and Tears The intensity of some of these songs is almost painful; the album's climax, the song “So In Need”, is a perfect example. Hacker's development of the song is itself sensational: to begin, she speaks a lyrical couplet which blossoms into a sung melody, to be developed layer by layer until the listener feels hopelessly caught in a world of pain and tears. Without a doubt, five and a half of the best musical minutes of 2013. Well done. A few of the other songs on Cascade Effect don't quite meet this impressive standard, but in general they are thoroughly successful. The opening number, “Naked Girl”, with its pearling piano line, paired with Stephie Hacker's well-tempered voice is a fine outing. The lyrics of the second, title track could be taken either very personally or as socio-political commentary: either way, they are well set with her superb piano playing and a band working entirely in the service of the song. Jan Saudek and Pablo Picasso Czech photographer Jan Saudek served as the inspiration for the song “Blue”, while “Minotaurus” recalls a visit to the Guggenheim Museum dominated by an encounter with the Pablo Picasso work of the same name. This experience has borne fruit in the shape of a sparkling, joyful number featuring an excellent chorus and a heroic guitar solo from Pete McCann – a veteran of over 60 recordings and sometime collaborator with such luminaries as Patti Austin, Lee Konitz, Dave Liebman, Kenny Garrett, Peter Erskine, the Maria Schneider Orchestra and Curtis Stigers. McCann also plays a central role in Hacker's song “Today Is A Day” – the second great song on the album, in all senses. The melody here is particularly rich and inviting, while the band once more proves itself capable of unbelievable refinement. Instead of poetry, Hacker here relates an episode from the life of a protagonist steeped in self- doubt. In a sense, the following song – the most pop/rock-oriented track on the album – carries this story forward. “Stranded Unicorn” constitutes a bridge between “Today Is A Day” and “So In Need” – where “Today Is A Day” focuses on self-doubt, “Stranded Unicorn” finds the singer in the title role, on an inner journey culminating in the profound question framed in “So In Need”: “Why was I too blind to see there's something wrong with you?” These three numbers form a sort of trilogy possessed of its own inner logic, evidence of the careful programming that marks both this album and Hacker's debut. Night and Charlie Chaplin ”Finally Home” poses another weighty question: “Where do I come from; where am I going?” The theme here is emigration; the song is a handsome collection of world music influences. The following song, “Self Love Poem”, is surely the most interesting on the album: it's based on a text written by Charlie Chaplin on April 16th, 1959, the 70th birthday of the brilliant filmmaker, actor and composer (for instance of the song “Smile”). “Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know that this is 'LIFE'!” writes Chaplin in the final line; Stephie Hacker and her wonderful band provide a worthy musical setting for this great poem. Mark Ferber's drumming is a highlight here; Ferber has anchored the bands of Don Byron, Fred Hersch and Norah Jones, among others. Hacker's singing on “Self Love Poem” is equally strong: she stretches for the lofty heights required by the internal logic of the text while retaining an essential lightness and playfulness; the result is a breathtaking marriage of music and text. Again, she is to be congratulated. With regard to logic: the last two songs are about night. “Nights Are Made For Lovers” is imbued with longing, the song is performed by a lost and lonely pianist dreaming of her beloved. The final song, “Dance”, is a marked contrast – a funky, nocturnal finale. With the exception of “So In Need”, “Dance” appeals to me the most. Perhaps it's because the band is allowed – once more, and collectively – to strut; perhaps because the wealth of influences renders it impossible to say where the music is truly rooted. Or perhaps simply because it's good music. Damned good music. A great album. Manfred Horak / trans. by Philip Yaeger

This information is provided by discogs.com or the profile administrator.

Primary Instrument:
Vocalist

Location:
Vienna

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Featured recording “Cascade Effect”

Cascade Effect

Dominante Records (2013)
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