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Album Review: Swim To America, Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano)
Doug Hammer
Cover image of the album Swim To America, Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano) by Doug Hammer
Swim To America, Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano)
Doug Hammer
2023 / Dreamworld Productions
46 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Swim To America, Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano) is the first of three albums that make up an incredibly exciting project by pianist/composer (and so much more!) Doug Hammer, one of my all-time favorite artists. All three albums are devoted to the music of Swiss rocker and pop chanteur, Stephan Eicher. Eicher is a major music star in Europe and Doug has been a huge fan of his music since the 1990s (Eicher released his first albums in the early 1980s). Each of the three albums feature thirteen of Doug's solo piano arrangements of his favorite Eicher songs. Volume 2 is scheduled for release in the fall of 2023 and Volume 3 will drop in the spring of 2024.

Like Doug's original compositions, Eicher's songs are deeply expressive and emotional, and cover a broad range of subject matter. I found this quote from Eicher on his Facebook page, and it's quite an enthusiastic endorsement: "Soooooo proud ... and 'happy release day' to 'Swim To America' by Doug Hammer ... Piano covers of some of my tracks... amazing how his piano 'sings' my voice and plays the entire band arrangement..." Doug has also assembled a playlist on Spotify that is called "Swim to America, Vol. 1 - Side by Side" that alternates Eicher's original songs with Doug's arrangements, so you can hear them back-to-back - a truly fascinating listening experience that I highly recommend if you aren't familiar with Eicher's music (I wasn't). My impression as I was listening to the playlist was also how well Doug expresses Eicher's voice via the piano, so it was interesting to read that Eicher also feels and hears it that way!

How this project came about is almost as interesting as the music itself! In December 2019, Stephan Eicher posted the sheet music for one of his songs on social media and asked pianists to play it and post their performances online. When Doug realized that the sheet music was only an accompaniment to the song, he added the melody in Eicher's distinctive vocal style and posted a video from his studio. Eicher noticed it and responded, making Doug so happy that he posted his arrangements of more of Eicher's music on social media, mainly as a way to thank Eicher for his music over the years. The two artists connected via email and the project was born. They met in Switzerland in July 2021 where Eicher was headlining a rock festival, and then the project really took off! Doug was going to do just one album, but he had too many favorite songs, so he proposed doing two albums of Stephan Eicher's music. He still had too many favorites, so the project now includes 39 solo piano arrangements of Eicher's songs. More details about the project will be revealed over time, but I can mention that Doug played the piano on one of Eicher's recent albums, Ode. The name of the track is "Je te mentirais disant," and it's a beauty!

In many ways, the Covid pandemic was really good for the arts, as artists had more time to nurture their creativity and take it in new directions. The Swim To America series is a perfect example of this and will bring more exposure to Stephan Eicher's music to an American audience and more exposure to Doug Hammer's music to a European audience - everybody wins (especially the audiences and new fans)!

Swim To America, Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano) is available to stream from Doug's website, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and sites like Spotify. The album can also be downloaded from Amazon and Apple/iTunes. I give Swim To America a very enthusiastic two thumbs up and look forward to hearing the next two albums!
June 22, 2023
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