Willow is Daniel Hecht’s third album, after Guitar (1973) and Fireheart/Firewater (1977), and the thirteenth album in the Windham Hill discography. Willow is a pleasant laid-back guitar album. Compared to the breakthrough compositions that Ackerman, De Grassi and Basho were releasing at this time, it is much more conventional in style. It also takes a different tack than David Qualey’s classically-informed “Soliliquy.”
Most listeners, this writer included, will find “Willow” unexciting in comparison to the work of his label-mates. Nonetheless, there is much to recommend here. Hecht’s playing is confident, with a good sense of space and timing. His compositions are familiar and unchallenging. But I’ve learned long ago that there are many who will cherish the simple, even simplistic, art over the more technically complex. Sometimes that person is me – I’d be more likely to play “Willow” when others are around than Robbie Basho’s albums – though there’s no doubt that Basho’s intense artistry outclasses Hecht’s competent but modest charms. Indeed, “Willow” will be a pleasant diversion for the completist collector; but hardly worth pursuing to the ends of the earth.
Hecht never released another Windham Hill album, though “Willow” continued in print for many years. In 1989, he gave up playing guitar to take up writing, where he has had much success. As Hecht tells it on his site:
“A medical condition affected my hands and made playing pretty impossible. Giving up the guitar was tough, but I’m glad I did. For one thing, my compositions were very “athletic,” requiring constant practice – time-consuming and boring. And I just couldn’t get as good as I wanted to be I played a lot of concerts with terrific musicians like Alex De Grassi and Michael Hedges, and after a while I realized I didn’t have the level of talent. But I feel fortunate to have been deflected into writing. Telling stories comes naturally to me, and I seem to have an endless well of ideas, observations and interests to draw from.”
Original Release Date: 1980
Current Artist Web Site: http://www.danielhecht.com/
If you have thoughts, memories or experiences experiences to share about this album, or have questions about its recording, we encourage you to use the comments section at the end of this post.
- Willow 5:03
- Autumn 3:27
- Water Mantra 3:48
- Jimmy Blue Eyes 3:07
- Love’s Reply 3:54
- Confluence of the Rivers 3:35
- Shell Game 3:20
- Tanglefoot’s Tales 5:46
- March of the Trolls 3:50
- Afternoon Postlude Soliliquy 3:32
US Visitors: Hear a a sample of Afternoon Postlude Soliliquy in iTunes Preview. Track 13.
Lead Guitar on Jimmy Blue Eyes by Alex De Grassi
- Produced by William Ackerman
- Recorded at The Music Annex, Menlo Park, Ca.
- Engineered by Russel Bond
- Jimmy Blue Eyes Engineered by Richard Bosworth
- Mastered by LRS
- Pressings by RTI, Camarillo, Ca.
- Photogpraphy by Ron May
- Design by Anne Ackerman
- All Compositions by Daniel Hecht
- All Selections Windham Hill Music BMI
- Manufactured by Windham Hill Records,
- Box 9388 Stanford, Ca. 94305
- ©(p) Windham Hill Records 1980
My especial thanks to Ervin Somogyi, of Berkeley, California, who made my delightful six-string guitar; and to Fred Carlson of Plainfield, Vermont, who made my twelve string. And to my brother Nicholas for his timely and gracious assistance.
“Willow” by Daniel Hecht was originally released on Windham Hill Records as WHS C-1013, and later as WH 1013. CD’s were released as WD 1013.
16 Replies to “WHS C-1013 Daniel Hecht Willow”
“Willow” was actually Daniel Hecht’s third album, after Guitar (1973) and Fireheart/Firewater (1977).
I actually enjoy this album. No, Hecht wasn’t as technically proficient as Robbie Basho or William Ackerman, but the album makes for very pleasant listening.
Thanks for the comment – I also think it’s a pleasant album, please note that it was Hecht who was comparing himself to his labelmates more than I was, however, I do think that Willow is a cut below the best of the de Grassi albums. Can you shed any light on his other releases? Are Guitar and Fireheart/Firewater similar?
They are similar in some ways, different in others. I’m sorry but I really can’t explain it better than that. They are both hard to find and both well worth a listen. It’s pretty easy to hear why William Ackerman wanted to sign Hecht if you listen to Fireheart/Fireriver.
I did find that one track from Guitar, “Baba Dream Songs,” is released on a gutar compilation that looks very interesting and is very much in print. Se: http://www.amazon.com/Wayfaring-Strangers-Guitar-Various-Artists/dp/B000ZIZ0U2
FWIW, there is a lot about Hecht’s style that does remind me of William Ackerman. Yes, Mr. Hecht is self-deprecating about his music but I think he, like many artists, is unfairly hard on himself. I think “Willlow” may be the most underrated of all the early Windham Hill albums. I find it anything but dull.
All the best,
P.S.: Discogs has done a good job of documenting Hecht’s work’ (I did the entry for Guitar, BTW). See: http://www.discogs.com/artist/Daniel+Hecht
Being a professional acoustic solo guitarist myself for the past 30 some years, originally out of the Fahey/Kottke/Basho school, evolving stylistically along the Windham Hill lines, I would have to disagree about Daniel Hecht’s perceived technical capabilities and the assessment of this album stated above. As evidenced in the video clip above, Daniel’s techical abilities and inventiveness are pretty obvious, not just in this video, but also in the complexity of the tunes on Willow. Will Ackeman himself, has often been self-deprecating in comments about his own playing and has always placed himself not in the same league as his cousing Alex de Grassi or Michael Hedges skill-wise. But that is not what Will Ackeman’s music is about. Will Ackerman’s style is about simple, deep emotion…flashy technique not required and in fact, counterproductive. But I digress…I would place Daniel Hecht, as far as technical guitar proficiency, somewhere between the simplicity or Ackerman on one end and the complexity of de Grassi on the other. Definitely, as you said a good fit for Windham Hill at the time, and this album a perfect companion to de Grassi and Ackerman’s early albums.
I would also add that anyone should take any review (including my comments here) and filter it through their own sensibilities…music, especially Windham Hill style music, is such a personal thing. A perfect example of this being that I decided when my own solo guitar album was released locally in 1983, not to submit it to the local newspaper for review, as I had originally planned, even though I had enough of a local following to tie for first place the next year, in that same newspaper’s reader’s poll for best local solo or duo artist. Why? Because I had just seen the paper’s music writer’s (also a local punk rock musician) review of Michael Hedge’s “Aerial Boundaries”, which he had called “incredibly bland and boring”. Nuff said.
Anyway, I like Willow alot and although you didn’t say bad things about it, I think calling it “pleasant” damns it with faint praise. Just my two cents worth.
ps. It would be remiss of me not to add, that although I might have disagreed with the review of this particular album, I have the greatest respect and admiration for the hard work and insightful writing that our Windhaming host has put into this site and these reviews. All of us Windham Hill fans owe you an incredible debt of thanks for this wonderful site.
Hi Dennis, Thanks for the comment, very well observed. I’m relistening now. Will post further comments later, however, I’ll say I believe pleasant to be pretty high praise. There’s not enough pleasant in this world.
Thank you, Johnny and so true. (not enough pleasant in this world) I think that I could be oversensitive to that word in regards to this music, having proudly called myself a New Age artist for a long time, while so many artists tend to run away from that term. (including Will Ackerman) Mostly, I’m guessing because of all the jokes and criticisms equating New Age to Muzak for yuppies and “granolas”. I also knee-jerked when a friend called a fb post of one of my songs “easy listening”. I know what that term used to mean to me, from trips in the car with my dad in control of the radio! So no, pleasant is not a bad term…I just interpreted it to be the equivolent to when our local paper reviewed a performance by the other guitarist I alternate with at a local Indian restaurant…the writer’s highest praise was that his music was “never intrusive”. I guess that was a compliment? hahaha
pps. I have to admit, that after re-reading your review of Willow, that you indeed said some very good things about the album and Daniel Hecht. I didn’t mean to overlook those things.
I have a CD of Willow if anyone might be interested in hearing it online.
Hi …. yes i am interested ….from Colombia .. it is impossible to get this álbum here …. so if you can help me …wow! [email protected] …. or how can i do to listen this cd ?
thanks a lot
Hecht’s Willow was always one of my favorite WH albums. I’m a big fan of 60’s folk rock and psychedelic, and of some groups that went on well into the 70’s, such as Jethro Tull. When the 80’s hit, though, I couldn’t take the sounds of pop and rock anymore, (I’ve mellowed a little on some of that since) and Windham Hill proved to be the exact right thing for me.
I was an immediate fan of Donovan Leitch, and through his references, and Paul Simon’s, I found out about Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, still two of my favorites. Someone played Leo Kottke’s 6&12 String Guitar for me, and I fell in love with it, though I didn’t like his subsequent albums as well, esp. on Capitol.
I had Willow on vinyl along with several others by Hedges, DeGrassi, Ackerman, and George Winston –but traded it away when I had the stupid notion of replacing all my albums with CDs. I found that many of my albums were years out of print, some never again available. When I wanted to buy a CD of Willow, sellers were charging over $100.00 for used ones. WH itself put out a series of budget CD’s, one of which included the Willow title track. But Amazon had a vinyl album for about six dollars, and I’m glad now that I got it. It transcribed well to mp3 and CD, and now I am back full circle to collecting Lps—I also have one by DeGrassi and Ackerman’s Conferring with the Moon, which turns out to be one of my favorites of his.
Like some other commenters, I don’t need technical wow and zow. Willow is haunting music, I am a poet—my failed epic was even entitled Willow (you can find it on lulu.com)—and I found Hecht’s music poetic and evocative, and that’s all I need it to be.
I never knew about Hecht’s other records, except I do own the compilation someone referred to, Wayfaring Strangers including his “Baba Dream Songs.” If someone has either of these rare records, maybe they could post them on you tube so we could hear. –Matthew Robb Brown
Way, way back in the day I had the pleasure of hearing Hecht play live. At the time, he had a duet album with Alex De Grassi that he was selling after his show. Foolishly, I didn’t purchase it – and I’ve never been able to locate it since. Perhaps my memory is wrong and it never existed? Does anyone know if such an album exists and where I might find it?
I’m not aware of any duet album with those two. They both released Windham Hill albums, of course, and Hecht had a few earlier solo albums on other labels.
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