Review: Trevor Gordon Hall at Kukuau Studio

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Philadelphia-based guitarist, Trevor Gordon Hall, introduced a Hilo audience to his one-of-a-kind instrument, the kalimbatar, during a thrilling 95-minute set filled with edgy driving rhythms and soft melodic phrases. It was an intimate Sunday evening – almost like having a private concert in your living room with thirty of your best friends, along with a superior sound system that accentuated the instrumentalist’s most delicate notes.

As an eager eight-year-old, Hall wanted to be a guitar player, but his parents discouraged the instrument and prompted him to play the piano and then the trumpet – the latter “accidently” met a mangled fate taking a tumble down the stairs of his family home. “When I was about ten,” Hall explained to the Kukuau Studio crowd, “I traced out an image of a Fender Stratocaster guitar on this piece of plywood, painted it, and put it on my wall. I told my parents I don’t need a guitar, I got one!” They finally gave in and bought him a real one.

After seeing a powerful performance of the kalimba* at a local museum, Hall was inspired and collaborated with various builders to design an acoustic guitar that would mount a kalimba at the base, giving him the opportunity to play rhythm on the neck with his left hand, while his right hand plunks the melody on the kalimba’s tines. If that’s not complicated enough, Hall finds time to beat the upper half the guitar body like a tight snare drum. Hall’s creation has evolved over the years, and the guitar’s internal organs now include a series of specialized microphones that offer his audience a unique experience – not just heard, but felt as tones resonate throughout the room.

“Pine Tree and Power Lines”

Hall’s Kukuau Studio show featured a range of tunes from his albums Mind Heart Fingers (2014), Entelchy (2011), and Finding My Way (2008). The Kalimbatarist admitted to being a big Beatle fan, who owned Sgt. Pepper’s and Abby Road as a teenager. “People tell me,” said Hall, “’For a millennial, aren’t you too young to know the Beatles?’ To which I say to them, ‘Aren’t you too young to know Mozart?’ You don’t have to be alive to know when something’s good.” Hall performed exceptional versions of McCartney’s “I Will” and Lennon’s “Come Together,” working them perfectly into the set.

Besides The Beatles, Hall mentioned he also was influenced by the fingerstyles of acoustic guitar players Michael Hedges and Don Ross. As a surprise, Hall also revealed there was some evangelical death metal music that seeped into the mix during his formative years.

Halfway through Hall’s show, he treated the audience to a new song, still untitled, and inspired by his three-year-old daughter Geneviève and a Bach influenced melody. As if on cue, Hall then segued into his original “Midnight and Raining” as rain could be heard pelting the studio’s tin roof.

This three-island tour of Hawaii was also Hall’s first visit to the state. We certainly hope he’ll return soon and bring us more great music.

Set List
Cerebral 3.0 | I Will | Pine Tree and Power Lines | A Severe Mercy | The Meeting at The Window | Kalimbatar | Old Days | Turning Ruts into Grooves| untitled | Midnight and Raining | Come Together

Encore
Short Story


Be sure to read my interview with Trevor Gordon Hall here.

To discover Trevor Gordon Hall’s catalog, and find out where he’s playing next, visit: https://www.trevorgordonhall.com

*The name kalimba is a Bantu word which means “little music.” Some refer to it as an African finger piano.

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