"He's a crooner with sexy and undulating style that made him a perfect match for our Brazilian fashion and jewelry show at PM. His self-arranged interpretations of Jazz standards recall John Pizzarelli's energy, Chet Baker's charm, Jobim’s (and a little of Kenny Rankin's) smoothness, and Michael Franks' playfulness. His originals surprise with classic appeal, and sit well within the framework of the more familiar tunes. He endears and intrigues both musically and visually, lending an elegance in a rare package that is richly musical and compelling."
--Trinny Ferrazzy, Fashion Show Director
James retains a passion for singing and playing guitar that spans decades. In his hometown of Bridgeport Connecticut, James met Jazz Great Sal Salvador-who introduced him to the jazz guitar. Sal ultimately challenged James that he belonged in the world of music, and that one day he would be compelled to embrace it completely. For most of his adult life, James considered those words wishful thinking and his music remained on the sidelines. Instead he took a 20-year detour which led to James building and leading many large companies. But, all the while, he also continued his focus on standards and jazz songs - creating his own fresh and eclectic arrangements of these songs.
In 2001, he found himself positioned at the top of the corporate ladder - looking off the edge. However, 9/11 was to be catalyst for his personal change, as it was for a lot of people. The events and subsequent economic fallout resulted in James losing two-thirds of his Companies customers overnight and closing his company office overlooking the Trade Towers. He was actually landing in Newark at the same moment the towers were hit. His flight was rerouted to Buffalo and it was during that 9 hour drive that he remembered what Sal told him, - which he never believed as a CEO: that he would go back to music…Sal was right. James knew that when the tie started feeling like a noose, it was time to change. Never having forgotten Sal’s words, he took a dramatic and courageous leap back into songwriting, arranging and performing. This has lifted James to an unprecedented new joy and affirmation, that he is fulfilling his destiny.
James' music is characterized as being highly charged (both the up-tempo songs and the ballads have drive). His voice brings forth a boyish sense of charm and innocence - while still giving James the ability to transition from being a crooner to displaying a full pop/rock sound.
Here's what James' producer had to say.
"What a wonderful ride it was to work with James on: Do It All Over Again. Like his own adventurous leap from being CEO to singer/songwriter/musician, this aptly titled CD brings to life the same twists to convention and sense of freedom. It was a very personal project for James and an exhilarating artistic one for me. Whether it's the unexpected Latin undercurrent he lends to Kern and Field’s The Way You Look Tonight, or his combo of teasing vocals and jazzy licks on his L-5 guitar on Bobby Troup’s Route 66, the playful twists keep on coming. Sting’s (The Police) Every Breath You Take was a personal inspiration, with James’ haunting, lush arrangement, and innovative guitar layerings. We also had to include a sexy, undulating version of Michael Franks’ Down In Brazil. Finally, there are James’ original songs including the powered-up title track, Do It All Over Again, and his love songs, Why Do I Dream and Anything, Any Day Anytime. It’s here where his boyish wonder and optimism shine through. Working with a bona fied triple-threat who is equally impressive at crooning, playing, and writing makes this a very special debut. I continue to be inspired by James’ boundless musical energy. There is much more to come. "
"When James Hammel is singing or playing...there's an electricity in the air! He's a dynamic singer, arranger and songwriter who speaks the universal language of love in every performance. His original "Do It All Over Again" is a call to action and a generational anthem and it's what is so special about his work— it's genuine — it's honest and it involves you. Recently (with lightning speed) James turned a weary convention crowd in Atlanta into a high-spirited, hand clapping, up-on-your-feet party... and it was a solo acoustic guitar show! His cool arrangement of Sammy Fain's 1931 jazz standard, "When I Take My Sugar To Tea" married with Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" is a perfect example of what James Hammel delivers —heart pumping — heart opening and heart felt moments!" —Susan Berkley