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Ken Hatfield and Friends Play the Music of Bill McCormick: To Be Continued…

Even listeners familiar with Ken Hatfield, the exceptionally gifted nylon-string guitarist, may well find this session a revelation in more ways than one. Granted, the album’s eight compositions, all written by Bill McCormick, provide a showcase for the skills Hatfield has displayed on previous recordings: the precise touch, the nimble phrasing, the ease with which he can make a Brazilian melody wax lyrical or seductive.

But thanks to McCormick’s consistently appealing yet wide-ranging contributions-and Hatfield’s inventive arrangements-To Be Continued … is as revealing as it is expansive. A delightful case in point is “El Camino Wes.” Turns out, McCormick first encountered Hatfield in the early ’70s, back when Hatfield was toting around an archtop guitar and in thrall to the genius of Wes Montgomery. It’s a real treat to hear Hatfield in this McCormick-fashioned tribute to Montgomery, playing popping single-note choruses contributing to a soul-jazz groove.

Still, long before that performance rolls around-it serves as the album’s coda-Hatfield, McCormick and a top-shelf quartet prominently featuring soprano/tenor saxophonist Jim Clouse deliver the goods. Particularly enjoyable are the album’s title track, a sinuous charmer, and “I’m Movin’ to Cool Breeze City,” a bop head brightened by Clouse’s luminous soprano. The latter tune also provides a colorful setting for guitarist McCormick, his sole performance here as a player.

Implicit in its title is the promise that To Be Continued … will spawn a sequel. Here’s hoping it arrives sooner than later.

Originally Published