STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For 21st Century Media
Philadelphia-based guitarist Trevor Gordon Hall is undoubtedly one of the most original artists to emerge over the past decade. A creative visionary, he has uniquely merged the acoustic guitar with the African kalimba. With his inspired songwriting and masterful playing, Hall is poised to leave an enduring impression on the musical landscape.
Earning the praise of such luminaries as Pat Martino, Graham Nash, Steve Hackett, Billy Cobham and Andy McKee, it’s unsurprising that Hall was recognized as one of the top 30 guitarists in the world under the age of 30 by Acoustic Guitar magazine.
As a follow-up to 2011’s critically acclaimed “Entelechy” album, Hall has emerged from the studio with what he considers his finest effort to date, “Mind Heart Fingers.” A release party is set for Nov. 1.
Under the direction of Grammy Award winning producer Will Ackerman and engineer Tom Eaton, Hall offers a dozen compositions that exemplify the emotional, melodic and hypnotic talents of this emerging star.
“It was quite an experience to work with Will Ackerman and to see how he really trusts his sense of aesthetics and the way music should feel,” said Hall during an interview in Phoenixville. “The biggest thing I learned recording with him and the brilliant engineer Tom Eaton is that, as we were going through each of the takes, it wasn’t for them about trying to get something that was nailed technically perfect, as it has been at previous sessions. They wanted something that was good technically, but they wanted a specific feeling to it. “
“This record taught me a lot about not having to rely on some external physical medium to have a voice — that my voice as a composer can come through different aspects,” said Hall. “So, I’ve put the kalimba, I feel, back in it’s proper place as not to be something that I need to visually capture someone with and write as much music on as possible, but to be used as part of my palette to paint with.”
“I’m really proud of the new album, and I hope it wins the hearts of more people that are outside my current market,” said Hall. “I would really like this album to help bring the current acoustic guitar conversation out of this obsession with fancy visual techniques and add to the broader guitar conversation – to get back at what music should really be about.”
As the founder of the Windham Hill Record Label, Ackerman, recognized for his work with musical visionaries Michael Hedges and George Winston, struck a chord with Hall long before the two ever crossed paths. Hall fondly remembers his introduction to Ackerman’s creative genius.
“I met Will Ackerman as a child through my mom playing his music in the house during my forming years,” said Hall. “His work and the rest of Windham Hill had such a profound affect on me even before I played guitar. I finally met him in person, and we talked a bit some years ago and stayed in touch. A few years later, he told me he liked what I was doing and said we should record at his studio sometime. I was floored by the idea, and after meeting up with him after a northeast tour, we decided to do this record together.”
Following the release of his debut album, “Portraits of Imagination” in 2005, Hall captured the attention of Grammy Award winning producer Joe Nicolo (James Taylor, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan). Nicolo produced Trevor’s highly regarded follow-up efforts, “Finding My Way” (2008) and “Let Your Heart Be Light” (2009).
Working to expand his musical vision, Hall experimented with merging the kalimba, a South African finger piano, with the acoustic guitar. Collaborating with various guitar builders, he successfully adapted the kalimba to mount on the front of his guitar and introduced the world to his ingenious “Kalimbatar.”
The release of “Mind Heart Fingers” brings to the forefront the latest member of Hall’s arsenal — a custom kalimba guitar that he spent nearly two years designing with the assistance of Toronto based guitar luthier Sheldon Schwartz.
“We worked very hard to get the best possible guitar and kalimba combo that sounded good, felt good and looked good,” said Hall. “The thing about Sheldon’s guitars is they don’t just merely resonate what I am playing, but seem to almost listen and interact with me as I play. I hear things differently, and it inspires me to go in so many different directions,” added Hall. “This guitar kalimba combo we have come up with makes me feel like anything is possible!”
“I think over the last few years I’ve defined Trevor, in my own mind and in my competitive marketing strategy, as a kalimbatarist,” said Hall. “I’m starting to realize more and more that I’m trying to get back to the roots of what inspires me to experiment with an instrument that’s 1,000 years old — to try to connect to the guitar. I think the spirit of that for me comes back to the obsession of new sounds that excite me.”
Immersed in a guitar community brimming with talented artists vying for commercial success, Hall’s unbridled enthusiasm to be the best at his craft will carry him to great heights.
“With each album, I’m always trying to figure out what it is that keeps me going,” said Hall. “If there’s an industry that is more risky and you go for more days without any affirmation, it’s music. There’s not an immediate payoff. I feel like, in some sense, I’m responding to this fire in my bones that says ‘keep doing this.’ When I can put that in a song, there is something so amazing about that.”
“I am expanding my mind and following my heart, having the courage to do so and then making music with my hands to try to make sense of it all.”
IF YOU GO
Trevor Gordon Hall’s “Mind Heart Fingers” release party, including a live performance with special guests Daniel Delaney and Henry Nam, is Saturday Nov. 1, at the University of Valley Forge Kempels Theater, 1401 Charlestown Road, Phoenixville. Doors at 7 p.m. and show starts 7:30. Tickets are $10/ Advance $13/ day of show and can be ordered on-line at www.trevorgordonhall.com.