Swim To America, Vol. 2 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano)
2023 / Dreamworld Productions
Review by Kathy Parsons
Swim To America, Vol. 2 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano) is the second of a three-part series of albums featuring Doug Hammer's solo piano arrangements of the songs of Swiss rocker and pop chanteur, Stephan Eicher. I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with Eicher before the first volume of the series was released earlier this year, but he is a major music star in Europe and Doug has been a huge fan of his music since the 1990s (Eicher has been releasing albums since the early 1980s). Each of the Swim To America albums has thirteen of Doug's favorite Eicher songs arranged for solo piano, and even Eicher is amazed at how well Doug expresses the nuances of his voice via the piano keys. Both artists are truly one-of-a-kind, and there is a great story about how this project evolved:
In late 2019, Stephan put the sheet music to one of his songs on social media and asked pianists to record and post their performances of it. When Doug realized that the sheet music was just an accompaniment, he reworked it, adding the melody in Stephan’s vocal style, and then he recorded and posted his studio video. Stephan took notice. Thrilled to get a response, Doug made another fan video of a different song, and Stephan took notice of that one, too. Doug continued to post his arrangements of Stephan’s songs on social media, mainly to thank him for his music over the years. This led to Stephan and Doug connecting through email and Swim To America was born. Originally planned as a one-album retrospective of Eicher's career highlights, Doug soon realized that he had too many favorites for one album. Two albums became three, and the third album in the series will be released in the Spring of 2024. The two artists met in Switzerland in July 2021 at a rock festival that Stephan was headlining. Since then Doug has played the piano on one of Stephan's tracks. The three Swim To America albums are not the end of this very exciting project, but Doug and Stephan will be the ones to unveil what comes next!
I have been reviewing Doug Hammer's music since his 2007 debut album, Solace, as a solo pianist/composer as well as a collaborator and orchestrator for many other artists. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Doug started playing the piano at the age of six and is well-versed in contemporary, jazz and classical styles of music. Experiencing Doug's music in concert is jaw-dropping as he seems to be capable of doing anything he wants at the piano. Several of his albums have been nominated for and won Album of the Year awards from a variety of sites, and his music was consistently on my Favorites Lists when I was still doing those.
The thirteen tracks on Swim To America, Vol. 2 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano) vary from smooth and gentle to much more upbeat and complex, expressing a variety of emotions and moods. It's an excellent album from start to finish and I recommend it very highly. The album is available to stream and download from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes as well as from many streaming platforms, including Spotify. As he did with Volume 1, Doug has created two playlists: "Inspiration" is Stephan's original songs in the same playing order as Doug's album, and "Side by Side" features Stephan's original recording followed by Doug's solo piano arrangement.
September 19, 2023