Live Music News & Review
Doug Hewitt Group Live
By Jimm O'Donnell - December 9, 2019
The Progression Brewing Co was host to Doug Hewitt Group on DEC 06 2019. by Jimm O’D
Take your favorite local jazz-man, put him in a pub full of intelligent and presumably educated and knowledgeable music fans, and watch the fun as he takes his band on a three-hour romp through an FM-ROCK repertoire. The hoots, the hand claps, and the enthusiasm around the room and on the dance floor were all good indicators of a gig going well, but the deal was sealed when all stayed just as engaged and enthusiastic through three originals in a row.
Granted, they were all uptempo numbers, one each from Doug Hewitt’s last three releases including the last his “Zen Cats” album; but still… to keep a few dozen folks moving and clapping when the three songs are all brand new to them, well… this is something of an accomplishment. Otherwise, the set-list ran a pretty even spread across decades and styles, leaning toward that songs we should call classic.
Here’s the thing about the Doug Hewitt Group doing radio-rock, including his own airplay-worthy compositions: it’s like a study in jazz-rock a lá Los Angeles in the 1970’s (the Steely Dan scene), with the sounds and arrangements generating from the sensibilities of a bonafide jazz cat. But Doug is a great musician who digs rock and rock & roll right along with it- rather than the other way around. This is rock music coming from a foundation and orientation of actual jazz rather than rockers trying to jazz it up so as to get with a program.
There is a cross between Les Paul and Larry Carlton that comes through in Doug Hewitt’s playing- on the one hand, a 335 just has a sound; on another, there’s a quick, sharp, Django-esque inflection in his playing. This is not so much the pet project of a self-proclaimed guitar-god. Maestro Hewitt is a master musician whose primary instrument is the guitar; the result of this is as much about the arrangements of the music as the instrumentation, or the playing.
Lovers of leads and licks will find much to satisfy them. Listeners will see be thanks that as much attention is given to the other players in the group. Piano is covered admirably by Mitch Pine, who in particular, comes across as an accompanist closer to a right-hand-man than ‘just’ a player. This is especially evident when he backs up Doug’s vocals- the whole Pink Floyd montage takes on a dimension of depth beyond what the four instruments provide.
There are a lot of surprises here at Progression Brewery tonight. Elton John and Jackson Browne, for instance. A few ‘deeper cuts’ by otherwise overplayed artists- say, “Dear Prudence” or “Come Together,” both properly addressed and not assaulted in the least. It seems something about a McCartney bass-line that is a particular affinity for Mark Sims. The bass, the beat, the basic tone all come across as familiar, effective, and respectful. Sounds about right, too.
Likewise with Doug’s voice. The regular Hewitt fan, one familiar with the Group’s usual jazz orientation, is sure to be impressed, and maybe even amazed. Meanwhile, Alan Kurtz, the man most often seated at the drum kit when Doug Hewitt plays, keeps time and adds embellishments in exactly the way a drummer should: perfectly. Rock-solid and free-floating, this feller matches his output to the situation at hand, however dynamic and diverse that spectrum might run.
Doug Hewitt is a talent who should be renowned the world over. His brilliant songwriting is perhaps a bit left-of-center to land him on the pop charts, but his talent and skill- not to mention the immaculate production of his recorded releases- are the sort that could and should occupy a substantial cult following, and surely would, if the Cosmic Strings of Fate and Happenstance were to wind their ways in his favor as they do for some but not all aspirants.
All a humble scribe can do is profess and publish.
Doug Hewitt Group Jazz at Luthier’s Co-op
- Jimm O'Donnell, July 20, 2019
What fun! I got to see Doug & Co play some stuff I'd never heard 'em do... it's been a bit of a while, you see. One such number was brand-spanky-new to all in attendance at Luthier's Co-op tonight, and an excellent choice for addition to the repertoire: "East St Louis Toodle-oo," with solo sections for all, and a new way to hear this feller play his 335... which I LOVE. In a quick, quiet spell after it ended, some humble scribe was heard to say, "Jeff Baxter, eat your heart out." A couple of people got the joke!
The other number I caught on touch-screen was a Pat Matheny thing, which another thing to dig about Doug. He spreads the love around the stage, too- Mitch Pine gets time to shine, and he always does so beautifully and tastefully- and reasonably, too- none of these players will ever showboat or steal thunder.
Take Mark Sims, f'rinstance... the dude has come to be quite the little monster on his bass, the instrument he started learning only when he came under Maestro Hewitt's tutelage. There was a time when he pretty much wouldn't take a solo to save his life; now he pumps 'em out with a pro's aplomb (cuz he is one).
That damn drummer, too... his name will come to me, prolly right when I'm aaalllmost asleep... he slaps 'em happy, in that loose-and-precise way that only a jazzer can make work so well. A couple of tempo switch-ups and increasing dynamics actually caught me by surprise- in that tickle-to-spine way.
And Doug... his guitar... I guess it really had been a while; it felt like an unconscious need was being filled when I let those sweet tones and that smooth fluidity flow in and settle my soul. He got no sax player these days; maybe that's why he was working a little harder- lol, playing more lead- than I remember. Nice, jazz-guitar leads, all sleek and shiny, kinda round and a little phat, with jabs and stabs where appropriate- and lots of those quick, articulate runs to embellish and punctuate some of the spaces, while leaving room in others.
They all do that- they play with integrity. They serve the sound overall and the tradition of the genre; they take their turns and leave room for each other; and they play so freakin' NICELY and well that it drives a scribe nuts (a short ride) to see any house packed less than chock-full when the Doug Hewitt Group is in it.
LMN&R LIVE NEWS & REVIEW
Doug Hewitt Group Live
By Kara - August 28, 2014
New Monthly Jazz Jam “Inaugural Event” Amherst, MA
First thought, as Doug Hewitt sings “You’d Be So Nice:” He sounds much more like an actual jazz singer than I expected (I’ll have to get my hands on Zen Cats someday). Listening to his two albums, the new (March 2013) “Roots in the Sky,” and the 2006 “Picasso Tomato,” one likely thinks that this is a jazzy pop singer, but listening live, it soon becomes apparent that his jazz roots go deeper than just leanings. The handling of the voice; the tone and range and variety of nuances, all bespeak solid skill and deep understanding of music properties. This is a singer who would be right at home doing the club scene or the lounge thing, but having been initiated by the pop-fusion sounds of his two CDs, this seems a pleasant surprise indeed. In business terms, the service provider has exceeded expectations.
What I really love is guitar. Jazz guitar, when it’s played as well as this, can be especially enjoyable, uplifting and fulfilling. The notes are spry, the tones are bubbly, the overall sound is full, and the skill is unmistakable. Jazz guitar can’t be played poorly, it seems; anyone trying to get away with lousy playing in this genre just won’t be around for long. Maybe it had to do with the internal sensibilities of the individual who chooses to follow this path, especially as a career. Such a one is drawn to the pursuit of artistic, intrinsic values and rewards, and such a one as this cannot help but strive to improve. It’s the way this animal is built.
So I came here tonight without much idea of what to expect; it’s an open mic format with guests welcome, but I guess I did expect to hear some nice guitar. Doug’s two albums are full of it, well-played guitar I mean, but always in service to the music. They are songwriter’s albums, focusing on overall arrangements more than guitar or vocal showcases, so I was really looking forward to getting a taste of this player’s guitar. Again, expectations are exceeded as the whole band shines. The keys are played perfectly, the stand-up bass is exactly what one hopes for, and the drumming is clearly of the highest caliber. Experiencing Doug Hewitt’s music, I am beginning to suspect (or Expect), is swell beyond the scope of what is normally thought of as’ local’ music. And the cornet player- soaring, fluid, dynamic and gentle when it should be. In a word, expert, as with all these musicians.
The band just did Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” speaking of soaring, and each player was given ample opportunity to show off his talents, but none even the slightest bit beyond exactly right. This is heavenly music; immaculate even. And as Doug’s guitar comes out or steps back, then pauses, allowing space, or lets fly with an amazingly executed solo, full of lush, round (not fat) notes from all up and down the fret-board; and as he sings old favorites like “Fly Me to the Moon” with a richness and smoothness that can only be called ‘velvety,’ the listener must pause to consider how fortunate we are in this area, that such hugely talented artists as Doug Hewitt (and many others) have chosen to play, and stay, here in Western Massachusetts.