Harrison Bankhead Sextet: Morning Sun, Harvest Moon (2011)
Bankhead favors violinist James Sanders equally, and is heard dueling with him and the horns with exquisite results on the lively, elongated "Over Under, Inside Out." Not only is this a wonderfully impressionistic track, but the angular nature of its abstract architecture makes it all the more alluring, as bass and violin groan and wail in counterpoint with the undulating horns. This chart also sets up the following one, an obvious homage to Mingus and his tantalizingly oblique "Orange was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk." Bankhead calls his musical adventure, "Red is the Color in Jean-Michel Basquiat's Silk Blue." Although set in a more avant-garde mode, Bankhead's "Silk Blue" seems to follow Mingus' "Blue Silk" in its dramatic twists and turns, abrupt changes in rhythm and overall dramatic minor modes. Even the dreamy interludes appear to mirror the original, but then the violin interacts with the horns and the tenor saxophone dances with Bankhead's bass, with arms intertwined as Bankhead stretches the music with an elasticity uniquely its own.
"22nd Street Hustle (In Memory of Fred Anderson)" is a touching tribute to this relatively unsung modern master of the tenor saxophone. "A Sketch of Leroy Jenkins" is another tribute to a musician who, for all intents and purposes, passed like a ship in the night. In both songs, Bankhead shows great sensitivity for the music made by the men he honors, with respect and a sense of gravitas; the expert use of clarinets woven into the softness of the other winds provides a great touch here and elsewhere.
And lest this seem like an album of solemnity, the masterfully executed portrait, "Chicago Señorita," ultimately gives the album a lithe character, with Bankhead and violinist Sanders breaking fresh melodic ground to give Morning Sun, Harvest Moon its true beauty.
Track Listing: Morning Sun/Harvest Moon; Chicago Señorita; East Village; Over Under Inside Out; Red is the Color in Jean-Michel Basquiat's Silk Blue; 22nd Street Hustle (In Memory of Fred Anderson); Flying Through Your Dreams.
Personnel: Harrison Bankhead: bass; Ed Wilkerson: tenor saxophone, clarinet, alto clarinet, didgeridoo. Mars Williams: alto, tenor, soprano and sopranino saxophones, clarinet, autoharp, wooden flute; James Sanders: violin; Avreeayl Ra: drums, percussion, wooden flute. Ernie Adams: percussion.
Record Label: Engine Studios