If there is hope for jazz in this still-young century it rests in the hands and hearts of artists such as Steve Hatfield, a composer and player dedicated to clarity of expression, to the melody, harmony and rhythms of music as well as life. Hatfield’s music captures the full beauty of the human experience––the serenity of twilight and the burst of hopeful rays that come with morning light.
His emotional range is evident in original compositions such as “Just Be Wally,” “Wacky Shack” and “As You Were,” but it’s also evident in his choice of covers––the haunting pop masterpiece “6 Underground” (Sneaker Pimps) and Joe Jackson’s equally masterful “Steppin’ Out.” The interplay between Hatfield, bassist Mark Foley, guitarist Randy Zellers and keyboardist Steve Bartkoski is remarkable not just in the musical acumen displayed but in each musician’s dedication to the emotional expression behind each song. The music is heartfelt but not absent of humor (as evidenced on Bartkoski’s “Mosley Street Motorcycle Gang”) and always rewarding for the listener.
Joined by jazz legend Jerry Hahn on “Mosley Street” and the stunning “As You Were,” and lap steel player Bret Boyer (“Never New” and the title cut), Hatfield has crafted one of the most fascinating albums to emerge from Wichita, Kansas––or anywhere else––in recent memory.
Forget what you know or believe about genres, about clichés, about jazz, or rock, or in-strumentals, guys named Steve, or anything else and instead embrace the music contained on Just Be Wally. The music is all you need to know.
Jedd Beaudoin, Wichita, Kansas 11 October 2006, Wichita Kansas