Brad Hoyt originally conceived of his ambitious new album, Far Away from Everyday, as a logical expansion of his 2009 Together Alone debut for the Harp Guitar Music label. He wanted to explore the harp guitar's role in various ensemble settings and planned to build on the earlier album's piano/harp guitar duet format by adding new instruments, inviting players he'd admired, been inspired by, and occasionally performed with over the years.
The result is "most often a sort of 'chamber jazz' -- a unique blend of meticulously written arrangements and wild improvisation," says co-producer (and Harp Guitar Music label head) Gregg Miner. Harp Guitar Music will release the new CD on December 3.
Three years in the making, Far Away from Everyday boasts 14 original tunes and 30 musicians from around the world, including such notables as Nashville-based harp guitarist Muriel Anderson, the first woman to win the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship; recent ASCAP Golden Note Award honoree Phil Keaggy, guitar; bassist Michael Manring; and Czech violinist Tomás Mach. Hoyt himself plays a variety of instruments including various incarnations of the piano and his one-of-a-kind 30-string harp guitar.
Chicagoan Howard Levy, who has written and performed harmonica concertos and was a founding member of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, was one of the first musicians Hoyt asked to appear on the new CD. Levy agreed to listen to Hoyt's music, liked what he heard, and a few months later contributed to five tracks. Jeff Coffin in turn was eager to record with Levy. They play together on two songs: "The Relative Sea," featuring Coffin on soprano saxophone and Antoine Dufour on harp guitar, and "Alternate Timeline," with Coffin on flute and Mike Doolin on his own "Doolin" harp guitar.
The album, Hoyt's third following Histories, a collection of music he recorded between 1990 and 2002, and the aforementioned Together Alone, lives up to its title with a unique blend of gypsy jazz, atmospheric soundscapes, Viennese-flavored reflections, and "funked-up acoustic music" (as Gregg Miner describes it). All of the music is carried by strong melodies that in many cases once had lyrics attached to them. They take on new life here.
Brad Hoyt, 42, was born and raised in Muncie, Indiana. As a Ball State University undergrad, he took lessons in both classical guitar and jazz piano and performed there in big bands and small groups, with his own blues band, and as a solo. When he began experimenting with plucked piano strings, he was so taken with the sound that he started envisioning a fingerstyle string instrument on which he could imitate that sound. A 12-string guitar or mandolin came close, but he preferred an instrument meant to be played with the fingers instead of a pick. After college, Hoyt moved to New York and freelanced. He had some of his music placed in TV and film, including NBC's Today Show. He also performed at such venues as the legendary CBGB's with the rock fusion group NightPeople. Three years later, he got married and relocated to Colorado, where he continued to write and record his compositions. In 1999, he and his wife Andrea moved to her hometown of Prague, where they had their first child. While in Europe, he recorded and performed with the group Art House, which he founded with bassist Alexander Jurman.
In 2002, massive flooding in the Czech capital led to Hoyt moving back to Indiana with his family. (They currently reside in the Denver area.) He took with him a renewed fascination in stringed instruments, and finding the "portable plucked piano" he had in his head. Having become taken with the harp guitar, a guitar-like instrument with a second tier of open, non-fretted strings, he attended the 2004 International Harp Guitar Gathering in Williamsburg, Va., hoping to find a luthier who could make the model he envisioned. That man proved to be British harp guitar specialist Stephen Sedgwick, who, through a gradual and painstaking process, worked with Hoyt in introducing bold new features to the 10-string Brazilian folk guitar that served as their starting point.
Dubbed by Sedgwick the arpa viola caipira -- Portuguese for harp country guitar -- Hoyt's dream instrument featured 15 bass, fretted, and super-treble double-courses totaling 30 strings. The more Hoyt has defined himself as an artist, having immersed himself in the harp guitar world, combined his fingerstyle and jazz influences, and designed his own custom instrument, the more surprised he is at how little known the string virtuosi he associates with are known by jazz's top players -- and vice versa. With Far Away from Everyday, he continues his personal mission to break down those walls.
Brad Hoyt will be performing solo CD release shows in Denver at the Meadowlark Bar, 11/30, 9:00 pm; and at the Mercury Café, 12/13, 7:30 pm.