"Traveler" is one of my favorite CDs. Not because it's original or well produced, but because Hass' ability to sound authentic and still be himself simply amazes me.
Is Steve Hass the best? Well, for my taste, he's the most versatile, recognizable, professional drummer I have ever heard.
Drummer Steve Hass's Traveler is so diverse that it sounds more like a label sampler than one musician's project. More precisely, it sounds like a busy session musician's CV. Indeed, while wrapped in a more PR-friendly "result of my travels" package, the album can also be seen as a quick run-through of all the styles Hass can play, for the benefit of potential employers.
The album begins with the Weather Report-ish funky jazz-pop of "J Ben Jazz". Like several other tracks, this one contains an interesting mix of live and programmed drums. Besides its catchy, happy, recurring theme, the song, the most structurally complex of the thirteen collected here, provides different contexts for different solos: Yaron Gershovsky takes a Cuban piano solo, while Ravi Coltrane produces a typically self-effacing effort. Guitarist Ben Butler comes in twice, first with a Pat Metheny-esque breakdown, then in a more bombastic rock style. Hass's beat remains twitchy and precise throughout.
The next full song is a slow bluesy soul cover of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", featuring great slide guitar and ever-pleasing handclaps. This feel returns later on Tom Waits' "The Heart Of Saturday Night". Acoustic guitar continues to dominate on Sarah McLachlan's folksy "Do What You Have To Do". "(718)" mixes fusion with a vague world music bent. World music is explored further in the three percussion or percussion and vocals interludes, with an Arabic tinge.
The two standards covered are "Skylark" and "Song Is You". The former is played as a pop ballad, with a heavy backbeat again mixing live and looped drums, the latter goes into Sonny Rollins territory by using a vigorous Caribbean beat.