Guitarist Trevor Gordon Hall Brings Original Hybrid Instrument to Traverse City | Characteristics
The obsession with sound
By Ross Boissoneau | October 9, 2021
How do you define the music of Trevor Gordon Hall? There are of course some folk influences – and some New Age sounds and textures. A little bit of worldbeat, with the kalimba and all. There are jazzy chords, but it’s not jazz. And if he interprets Bach and Satie, it’s not classic.
Hall also doesn’t know what to call his music.
âI don’t know. Folk is a way of distribution,â he laughs. âBut my approach to rhythm comes from death metal drums.â
This may be normal for someone who plays the kalimbatar, an acoustic guitar with an African thumb piano grafted onto it. And yes, Hall plays them both at the same time.
âIt was born out of my obsession with sounds,â explains the Philadelphia-based musician. âI keep my ears open for everything. “
Hall will perform at Kirkbride Hall in Building 50 on Saturday, October 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $ 25; the show is a fundraiser for WNMC.
Hall first heard the kalimba – popularized by Earth, Wind & Fire – at the Philadelphia Art Museum. âI fell in love with the sound,â he says. “It resonated with me.” So he ordered one and in 2007 started experimenting with it. Then came the epiphany: he attached one to his guitar and began to use the instrument to broaden his musical palette.
âIt’s the mixture of two acoustic instruments, the steel strings with the steel teeth resonating in the same sound chamber,â he says.
He says it’s important to make music with the combo instrument, rather than just using it as a novelty. “These are cool sounds, but is it musical?” Â», He said to himself, he wondered. “It’s something that looks like a Frankenguitar, (but) I wanted it to last longer than a 10 second TikTok video.”
So he continued to experiment, eventually building his own kalimba, a two-octave chromatic instrument with color-coded keys. He worked with Canadian luthier Sheldon Schwartz to build the instrument. âI worked hard on the shapes and the touches,â he says. “I wanted to have one with more reach.”
Hall admits it could easily turn into what he calls “a circus performance,” but he’s determined not to let that happen.
âEverything revolves around music and musicality. For me, my project was self-discovery through music, âhe says. “That’s what brought me to this.”
His turn to become a musician began in childhood, listening to his parents’ music. âMy mother loved Windham Hill: Will Ackerman, Michael Hedges, George Winstonâ¦
Over the years he has performed across the country and the world, from Carnegie Hall to Union Chapel in London.
He has received accolades from heavyweights like John Mayer, Steve Miller, Graham Nash, Will Ackerman, Pat Martino, Tommy Emmanuel, Phil Keaggy and Pierre Bensusan. His recordings include a collaboration with Ackerman, the founder of Windham Hill Records, on the Mind Heart Fingers album, which peaked at # 4 on the World International Music radio charts.
He has also produced an EP series, Kalimbatar Classics, featuring arrangements of classical piano standards reimagined on the kalimbatar.
Hall has performed with bands, but his show here will be solo. âI have been in groups, I have done collaborative projects,â he says. “I still find them funny, but it’s like I’m on vacation, so I’m going back to solo acoustics.” He says it’s a natural consequence of growing up without a lot of musician friends.
âWhen I was a kid I didn’t have a ton of musicians around. I liked solitude and I was introverted, âhe says. “I was spending time with the instrument.”
While he mainly performs as an acoustic solo, he composes and arranges using sophisticated musical software. The ability to connect via the Internet has also opened it up to other musical connections across the world.
This show is also a collaborative event. In addition to supporting WNMC, concert promoter Seamus Shinners works with Bryan Galloup and Galloup Guitars of Big Rapids.
The company will sound and sponsor the show, along with Susan Batdorf Realty and Tom and Carrie Walker.
âBecause I deal with these guys, I know what they need,â says Galloup.
Galloup says it’s a natural consequence of his work and that of his company creating guitars and immersing himself in the world of acoustic guitars and fingerstyle guitarists. With shows and conventions all over the world from Memphis to Montreal, Italy, Germany and beyond, Galloup is able to connect with artists. He says he generally seeks to do shows in Big Rapids and Grand Rapids and looks forward to bringing more to this area.
Tickets for Trevor Gordon Hall on Saturday October 16 at Kirkbride Hall in Building 50 are $ 25 and are available from Traverse City Guitar Company and Oryana, as well as online at tcconcerts.com.