Kevin Hackler
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Kevin Hackler


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"Absalon Album Review"

Kevin Hackler

The new studio collection from Charleston jazz trumpeter Kevin Hackler and his studio combo stands as one of the finest releases by a local act of the year. The curiously titled, eight-song album Absalon sounds like a grand piece of work from a seasoned veteran act (circa 1967) with a world of experience. Hackler's current gallery of cats — bandmates electric guitarist Dave Linaburg, drummer Stuart White, vibes man Michael Hanf, and bassist Ben Wells — recorded and mastered the album over the spring with local engineer Tim Holbrook. A truly collaborative effort, Hackler's horn sails effortlessly across White's smooth snare and cymbal work, Linaburg's occasional wild electric guitar distortion, and the unexpected rhythmic turnarounds. Hanf's vibe technique is amazing and complements Hackler's softer Miles moments very well. From the first melodies and accents of lead-off tune "Wishful Thinking" and the Far Eastern/caravan drowsy feel and minor-key melodies of "Venerativeness" and "Abif" to the beauty of "Falling Down," Absalon shines brightly. ( —T. Ballard Lesemann - T. Ballard Lesemann

"The Baxter Factor"

FEATURE ARTICLE: The Baxter Factor

NOVEMBER 15, 2006

..."Most of the musicians on the jazz scene here know each other," says the trumpeter. "It really is a small community of people and everyone takes an interest in everyone else. I think there are very many sounds happening here ... but I wouldn't say that we have a collective 'sound' that Charleston can call its own. We all know a lot of the same tunes, though!"

A regular collaborator with Baxter and Hamilton, Hackler has a combo that handles jazz standards and original pieces every Wednesday and Thursday evening at High Cotton (199 East Bay St.). The dapper young horn player leads another combo every Sunday evening at Chai's Lounge & Tapas (462 King St.).

"Hackler can play any standard in the book, rearrange modern rock tracks for his quartet, and be found on stage at Johnson's with an impromptu funk jam on occasion," says Brisendine, who recently completed a month-long gig at the Pour House with the trumpeter for a season in the Fatty Arbuckle group. "Very, very versatile."... - Charleston City Paper

"Kevin Hackler Quintet"

LOCAL ACT | Kevin Hackler Quintet
Hot Studio Sessions: Kevin Hackler and his quintet prove they've got chops on Absalon


by T. Ballard Lesemann

Kevin Hackler Quintet
w/ Morimoto
Tues. Nov. 27
9 p.m.
Pour House
1977 Maybank Hwy.
(843) 571-4343

"When you get a lot of guys who are well-versed in jazz, you can play a lot of old stuff," says local trumpeter Kevin Hackler, "but when you mix standard jazz education with modern influences — rock music we all grew up with like Nirvana, The Beatles, and Smashing Pumpkins — you can do something else. It can be a weird cross between the two."

Hackler and his quintet — electric guitarist Dave Linaburg, drummer Stuart White, vibraphonist Michael Hanf, and bassist Ben Wells — are ready to present an "Absalon Live" set at the Pour House this Tuesday in celebration of the official release of their debut album, Absalon.

Hanf came up with the title (which also serves as the band's nickname) last year, mistakenly referring to Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!. The name "Absalon" is an actual proper noun, most often associated with a 13th century bishop from Holland.

"It was a cool-sounding name, but really had no significance at first," says Hackler. "This quintet is the same group of guys who recorded the album. We've had a lot of opportunities to perform the stuff at different venues around town. We played at the Circular Congregational Church two weeks ago, which was a great chance to perform some of the quieter material. At the clubs and bars, we usually play the louder, more rockin' material. The band can morph into whatever for each venue. For this Pour House gig, I think we'll do a more high-energy set. We'll still play the quieter tunes, but with more energy for that crowd. In settings like that, this band really shines."

Hackler, 26, first started playing music at the age of seven on guitar and drums. He picked up a trumpet when he was 10 and has stayed mainly with the horn, despite his continued interest in drumming. His first music reading lessons came in the school band, for which he played horn. His family moved to Myrtle Beach from Galax, Va., during his middle school years. He enrolled at the College of Charleston in 1999, where he studied and performed with professors and students, including the Andrew Thielen Big Band, trumpeter Lyle van Wie, and others.

After earning his degree in music in 2003, he branched out into the local music scene in various rock, jazz, and acoustic bands and with combos, officially joining rock/prog band Live Oak for a lengthy stint. He gradually built a repertoire of jazz standards and original pieces to perform with his own acoustic combos and regularly gigs with small combos every week at downtown venues High Cotton and Mercato.

"The experience with Live Oak was what really got me into the local clubs for the first time," he remembers. "Eventually, I started playing at Meritäge and other spots. You can't really sell yourself as just a solo trumpet player, so I put a three-piece together, which is easy to handle — and easy to pay."

Hackler's current quintet is just one of many conglomerations featuring local players Linaburg, White, Hanf, and Wells (both Linaburg and Wells are in opening band Morimoto). They're practically a tag-team gang of jazz cats, capable of all sorts of musical mischief in any gig situation.

"Most of the musicians on the jazz scene here know each other," says Hackler. "It really is a small community of people and everyone takes an interest in everyone else. I think there are very many sounds happening here ... but I wouldn't say that we have a collective 'sound' that Charleston can call its own. We all know a lot of the same tunes, though!"

Whether through an improv-based or composition-based approach, Hackler and his fellow musicians work with high technique, big ideas, and refined attitudes. Their complex, expressive, and often innovative music is several wide steps away from the usual rock and funk on the local circuit.

"We really started this thing off as a jam session at Johnson's Pub every Tuesday night," he says. "It was a good combination of guys. I thought it was cool to have the electric guitar mixed in with the other instruments. After that first Tuesday night, it clicked and everyone was into it. Shortly after, we decided to actually record an album."

Elegant, spacious, and confident, their new eight-song collection resembles a seasoned veteran act with a world of experience. Recorded and mastered with local engineer Tim Holbrooke at the helm, Absalon is truly a collaborative effort. The band congregated earlier this year in an office on Sullivan's Island to lay down the tracks. Fortunately, things fell into place beautifully.

"We moved some furniture around, set up just like a regular jazz session, and recorded live with no overdubs," says Hackler. "We did everything on the first or s - Charleston City Paper

"Live Review"


No Heckling Needed
Trumpet-led quintet jazz it up

It's encouraging to see a healthy crowd at a local club, checking out two young bands who specialize in original, totally instrumental music. Such was the case at the Pour House last Tuesday, when trumpeter Kevin Hackler and his quintet celebrated the release of their new album, Absalon. Openers Morimoto veered in and out of prog-heavy fusion numbers and a few surprisingly elegant moments of mellowness. Hackler kept cool during the second set with backing from guitarist Dave Linaburg (a guy who could sculpt a dozen wrong notes into a blazing riff that works), along with timekeeper Stuart White, vibes man Michael Hanf, and bassist Ben Wells (who played electric all night). This combo started out as a loose jam session at Johnson's Pub in 2005, but now they're sounding like well-seasoned veteran jazz cats. �T. Ballard Lesemann - Charleston City Paper

"Trumpeter creates impressive new recording"

Trumpeter creates impressive new recording

By Jack McCray

The Post and Courier

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Trumpeter Kevin Hackler stood on the horn line on stage at this year's Piccolo Spoleto Festival Finale in Hampton Park, sweating profusely on one of the hottest days of the year while blowing sizzling R&B in Quiana Parler's 12-piece big band.

That was a Saturday.

On Sunday nights — until recently — Hackler could be found in much cooler environs on King Street at Chai's tapas place, usually with a quartet or trio offering up more straight-ahead stuff — cool and brisk.

"It ran a couple of years, so it was great," he said in an interview. "Before that, I had a gig at Union Hall for a year and a half."

Aug. 30, he was holding forth in a duet at the lounge in High Cotton, an East Bay Street establishment where he has performed regularly.

Hackler, 26, is versatile and he's maturing as a musician and as a band leader.

A couple of months ago, Hackler released a CD, "Absalon." It was recorded in January on Sullivan's Island by Tim Holbrook, a record producer who moved here from Atlanta eight years ago. He and Hackler co-produced the CD.

"He's got a keen sense of performance and also a great ability to put players together and write great songs," Holbrook said of Hackler. "I haven't seen that in this modern era of music. Very often Kevin is interested in the music, when others are more interested in making money, and it's very apparent in his material."

"We recorded it in six hours, no overdub," Hackler said. "I went in and mixed the whole thing myself. Tim supervised, then he mastered it."

Hackler describes the record as modern jazz/rock. Working with him on "Absalon" were David Linaburg on guitar, vibraphonist Michael Hanf, Ben Wells on acoustic and electric bass, and drummer Stuart White. All the tracks are original with tunes by all the players.

They are all products of the music school at the College of Charleston. Hackler graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music performance with a focus in jazz trumpet. He said he had lessons and great teachers before coming to the college from North Myrtle Beach and after, but he credits his time there with crystalizing his talent.

He studied trumpet with Charlton Singleton, took piano lessons from Tommy Gill, rhythm lessons from Quentin Baxter, jazz theory from Robert Lewis and music theory from David Maves and Trevor Weston.

"I learned a lot from all of them, especially Quentin," Hackler said. "He would come out to my gigs, critique me and give me feedback. ... He used to have those things, these performances on Sunday at Clara's. It was like a class for four hours, what not to do at a jam session."

Baxter remembers Hackler as a younger up-and-comer. "I can tell a student all the right answers and he'll still be like my son and do what I say, but that's not like his going out and living his own life," he said in a phone interview Monday. "Kevin's always been talented, but he's improved so much because he plays more now. He's grown exponentially. Until you put yourself into it, you can't really learn this stuff. ... He's really started to take the advice he's gotten and he's created this wonderful school of experience for himself."

Hackler said he plans on doing an original recording every year. "I think it's something you should do. I don't see a lot of guys around here recording."

He wants to keep growing and maturing. "My larger goal is to get more into film scoring and composition. I do some work for an animator friend in New York." - Post and Courier

" Album Review"

Reviewed by Ronald Jackson,

Featured Artist: Kevin Hackler

CD Title: Absalon

Year: 2007

Record Label: K. Hackler Music

Style: Straight-Ahead / Classic

Musicians: Kevin Hackler (trumpet), David Linaburg (guitar), Michael Hanf (vibraphone), Ben Wells (bass), Stuart White (drums)


Straight-ahead steam and a bit of hot guitar smoke here and there make this energetic album a cool standout. Kudos to trumpeter/composer Kevin Hackler for producing such a professionally intrinsic project. Absalon embodies the essence of traditional jazz in a jazz purist�s perfect way, I�m sure. Not being such a purist does not preclude this reviewer from noticing, marveling at, and enjoying this fine, delicate, crystal-like �lifeform� accentuated by Hackler�s splendid trumpet.

The tunes here are definitely produced with care and attention to the finest of details. There is precision, touch, excellent phrasing, melody, and presence. Of particular note to me were the mesmerizing melodies of tracks 2 (�Venerativeness�) and 3 (�Purdy, Much Done�). So well done were these (as well as others here) that adding this to my album collection comes very naturally. All blends well from the satiny trumpet runs to the mellow yet strong and marvelously commanding guitar work. There�s also a most competent vibraphonist who adds great color to this endeavor. My bet is that this project was one taken very seriously from the beginning, and it clearly shows.

Hackler could have fooled many, as this certainly has all the markings of one who has an abundance of albums to his credit. Nonetheless, I�m sure that this debut will be followed by many. Smoky, resonant, clear, joyful, and full of charm, Absalon is one of those albums that won�t just serve as background music during conversation. Rather, it can easily be seen as the subject of conversation.

Tracks: Wishful Thinking, Venerativeness; Purdy, Much Done; Falling Down, Abif, First Ascent, Vanish, Proosed, Part One; Proosed, Part Two

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Reviewed by: Ronald Jackson -


ABSALON, 2007 (K. Hackler Music)



Twenty six year old trumpeter Kevin Hackler began playing music in his native Virgina at eight years old, starting on guitar and drums. He first picked up the
trumpet to join the school band in fifth grade. After relocating to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina during his seventh grade year Hackler began to take an interest in jazz, joining the newly formed school jazz band. Landing his first gig with
the House of Blues Big Band in Myrtle Beach at age fifteen Hackler was motivated to pursue music as a career.

Kevin Hackler graduated in 2003 with a B.A. in Music Performance from the College of Charleston, studying under such great influences as drummer Quentin Baxter, trumpeters Lyle van Wie and Charlton Singleton, composers David Maves and
Trevor Weston, and pianist Tommy Gill. During his time at the college and afterward, Kevin had the opportunity to tour with several bands across the United States and Europe and finally becoming a band leader himself.

The trumpeter's acclaimed debut album Absalon has been called "one of the finest original works of 2007" by the Charleston City Paper. Ronald Jackson of Jazz says "Absalon is one of those albums that won�t just serve as
background music during conversation. Rather, it can easily be seen as the subject of conversation." Most recently, Hackler received the Critic's Pick award for Best Horn Player in the 2008 Charleston City Paper "Best Of" edition.

Hackler’s musical endeavors have also taken him into the world of composition and computer generated music and many of his pieces have been presented at art shows and film festivals across the East Coast and in Europe, along with artistic
animated and still works by his long-time friend and renowned New York artist, Matthew Smithson ( A few of their most recent collaborations have been presented at the Pictoplasma Conference and the Webcuts festivals in Berlin.

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