CD Review: Dan Hagen - The Journey


Column by Mike Powers.

Exclusive to STR

Jazz guitarist Dan Hagen’s impressive debut release, The Journey, is a diverse compilation of vintage covers and distinctly original compositions. The solo instrumental effort--an eclectic mix of funk, groove and jazz fusion with a distinct Latin flavor--was largely inspired by Hagen’s committed involvement in the liberty movement.

A multi-talented artist and noted liberty activist, Hagen is based out of Nashville, Tennessee, where he created and co-organized the inaugural Music City Liberty Fest last year.

The Journey starts with a masterful cover of the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On,” the emotional anti-war protest song that is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. Its relaxed rhythm provides a refreshing take on this timeless classic.

“River of Spring” is an alluring Latin original that reveals Hagen’s deep Brazilian influences and evokes a Mediterranean feel, with a sound reminiscent of jazz fusion guitarist Marc Antoine. The song was inspired by the devastating Nashville floods in May 2010 that resulted in the loss of dozens of lives and left billions of dollars in property damage in its wake. Jim Williamson’s flugelhorn adds a delightful dimension to the piece.

It’s hard to listen to Hagen’s upbeat cover of the Stevie Wonder classic “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” without tapping your feet or moving in time to the beat. Hagen considers Stevie Wonder to be a great musical influence, citing Wonder’s Innervisions as one of his favorite records.

Elsewhere, Hagen rocks a funky New Orleans groove (“Sayonara Bob”), wails a haunting tribute to lives lost in war (“Souls Cry”), and delivers a stylish flamenco (“Nina Angel”). Hagen closes the album with a soulful, improvisational performance (“Revolution”) that puts all of his talents on display. Amazingly, it was recorded in just one take.

If jazz is art for your ears, then The Journey is an eight-piece museum of finely-crafted masterpieces.

Let’s hope this journey is only beginning.

Track Listing: What’s Going On; Altered Spaces; Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing; River of Spring; Sayonara Bob; Souls Cry; Nina Angel; Revolution

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