Joel Harrison: Urban Myths (2009)
A key element in Joel Harrison's history is what he calls the "electric jazz" of the '70s. So this smart and inventive guitarist offers his own reconsideration of the music championed nearly 40 years ago.
This is powerfully intense music but also has a sense of play that keeps its ingredients engaging. The set opens with a groove that seems to emerge out of a mistthe curious air of the beginning suddenly develops into what Harrison calls a "circular groove" and keeps pulsing hypnotically thanks to the sterling solo work of violinist Christian Howes and saxophonist David Binney, supported by the dervish-like rhythms of drummer Jordan Perlson, bassist Stephan Crump and electric pianist Daniel Kelly.
In the extraordinary set of "Straight No Chaser" variations, Monk's tune appears in the midst of funk textures and serious compositional notation. There's a horn section too as Binney is joined by trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, tenor saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh and trombonist Corey King.
Harrison lovingly celebrates an early New York champion, the late club owner Queva Lutz (of 55Bar fame), in the hauntingly beautiful "Last Waltz for Queva". With glowing guitar work, the tune becomes a kind of country, rhythm 'n' blues hymn.
These tunes are delightful reminders that electricity, jazz, a classical sensibility and more coexist powerfully in the music of Harrison.
Track Listing: You Must Go Through A Winter; 125 and Lenox; Mood Rodeo; Last Waltz for Queva; Straight No Chaser (variations); Between the Traveler and the Setting Sun; Urban Myths; High Expectations Low Return.
Personnel: Joel Harrison: guitar; David Binney: alto saxophone; Christian Howes: violin; Daniel Kelly: keyboards; Stephan Crump: acoustic bass; Jordan Person: drums; Fima Ephron: electric bass (2, 8); Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (4, 5, 7); Corey King: trombone (4, 5, 7); Jerome Sabbag: tenor saxophone (4, 5).