Steve Haskin – Avenue B
Although the new album by Steve Haskin, Avenue B, was not commissioned by a big time Hollywood director, this brilliant portrait of accomplished musicianship (related solely by the instruments themselves) feels like a big screen movie for your ears to feast on.
Soundtracks are some of the most mistakenly dismissed records in all of popular music. If you like movies, then I’m sure you have appreciated the mood-setting nature of the music or sounds of your very favorite scenes. Take for example Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, a film universally considered a benchmark and a classic by both audiences and critics alike. In Taxi Driver, we watch Travis Bickle, aptly portrayed by Robert De Niro, wander the streets of New York City in the night behind the wheel of his cab, never knowing what sort of filth, absurdity or danger he could encounter during his shift. Perhaps what makes Trevor far less menacing when he’s staring into the rear view mirror with disdain and contempt for society is perhaps Scorsese’s brilliant musical selection for the film, an immaculately composed diary-like jazz piece by American soundtracking legend Bernard Herrmann. The dissonant, unsettling horns creep out from the shadows as if to be shady New York characters themselves. It’s impossible to imagine the picture without it, and even harder to imagine the film having as much of an impact on our psyches. That kind of emotional depth in an artist who doesn’t have a singer to charge with the task of setting the mood with descriptive lyrics is a deeply refined skill. Steve Haskin nails it here. Even without lyrics, Avenue B still feels like you’re following a story, with unique plot twists and characters that you grow fond of or don’t ever quite trust.
With a mix of vibrato, fast runs, pointed guitar attacks and the occasional forward-swing, Steve Haskin commands the stereo throughout Avenue B’s rollercoaster dips into elaborate grooving. I’m new to Haskin’s music, but I’d be shocked if he isn’t teaching music somewhere. Someone of this caliber of musical expertise obviously has extensive training in his background, but nowhere in Avenue B do I begin to feel like Steve is talking, rather, playing down to me. He’s literally soundtracking the story that is life and love, creating an atmosphere that is both inviting as it is sequestering us from the secret chaos of silence.
If you have the means, I definitely recommend giving Avenue B a spin and seeing what journeys you’ll go on with Steve Haskin, who is quickly becoming a new favorite of fine arts intellectuals from coast to coast. And after seeing some of the commercial garbage that Hollywood is bringing to local theaters this summer, it’s albums like this one that will be the saving grace of the 2018 arts year. For more from Steve, check out his topic page on YouTube and experience more of his incredible catalogue, and be sure to download yourself a copy of Avenue B when it drops this May 4.