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Joel Harrison: Mother Stump

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Given his proclivity for wildly eclectic, big-concept musical projects featuring improbable combinations of multi-ethnic instrumentalists, Joel Harrison is about the last guitarist I'd expect to record a funky slab of power-trio jazz-rock-funk fusion. Across the board, his guitaristic skills have taken a back seat to compositional concerns and rich, detailed arrangements. Yet, here is Mother Stump, Harrison's paean to 70s-era jazz-rooted, rock-powered, funked-up guitar-centric instrumental music. Moreover, Harrison has pointedly eschewed all of the studio polish and post-production nonsense that bogs down must fusion albums these days. Like the best music in any genre, Mother Stump derives its potency from ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison: Mother Stump

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Every so often, musicians feel an inner urge to return to their roots and test their acumen with newer techniques and perspectives. Here, guitarist Joel Harrison revitalizes his early persuasions in a trio format, with keyboardist Glenn Patscha appearing on several tracks. Recognized for his heterogeneous projects, including big band, world-jazz, progressive jazz and distinctive style as a guitarist not content to his rest on his laurels, Mother Stump interconnects another phase of his all-embracing faculties. With dreamy volume control shadings, brazen crunch chords, angular slide guitar riffs, discordant overtones, harrowing electronics treatments and howling blues licks, he mirrors convention ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison & Anupam Shobhakar Multiplicity: Leave the Door Open

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Leave the Door Open is more than evocative and expertly played music: It heralds the emerging age of global world jazz and the attendant possibilities with which it comes. Jazz and blues guitarist Joel Harrison (from Washington, DC) and sarode player Anupam Shobhakar (from Kolkata, India) first met to work on Harrison's 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship for composing a piece for jazz quintet, classical percussion and sarode. “I have had a lifelong interest in sarode but working with Anupam allowed me to grow exponentially in my understanding of his tradition," Harrison recalls. That first meeting has since ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison: Mother Stump

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Guitarist and composer Joel Harrison is well-known for creative cross-cultural collaborations and unique arrangements of works by influential musicians like George Harrison and Paul Motian. A magnanimous bandleader, Harrison rarely dominates his own recording projects, typically soloing with lyrical economy in lieu of pyrotechnic excess. Mother Stump focuses on this underplayed aspect of Harrison's abilities, spotlighting his improvisational prowess on a hand-picked selection of beloved cover tunes and a pair of evocative originals. Inspired in part by the popular music he heard growing up in Washington D.C., the session's varied track list reflects the pan-stylistic diversity Harrison was ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison & Anupam Shobhakar Multiplicity: Leave the Door Open

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If but a single word must describe guitarist/composer Joel Harrison it's restless; one look at his discography, from his “breakthrough" Free Country (ACT, 2003) to the 19-piece big band of Infinite Possibility (Sunnyside, 2013) and it's clear that this Guggenheim Fellowship Award winner isn't content in any one place for long. Leave the Door Open may be his first album of 2014--and yet another departure, this time exploring an improv-heavy kind of world music sourced from the East and West in collaboration with Indian sarodemaster Anupam Shobhakar--but there's another album on the horizon that focuses on Harrison the guitarist (Mother ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Joel Harrison 5 at Gigspace Performance Studio

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Joel Harrison 5 Gigspace Performance Studio Ottawa, Canada March 1, 2014 Tucked at the end of a small strip mall in an unlikely location, Gigspace Performance Studio has, since opening in the fall of 2011, garnered a reputation as an intimate performance space where magic often happens. A not-for-profit 46-seat venue, “created by musicians for musicians," it sports surprisingly great sound, despite a stage where even a quintet like the Joel Harrison 5 had to shoehorn itself in. And while a sell-out of a space this small might seem like a small victory, for the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison & Lorenzo Feliciati: Holy Abyss

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With his stylistic approach to jazz guitar, Joel Harrison imparts a mark of authenticity on whatever genre-busting activities he approaches. Whether tackling drummer Paul Motian's compositions with a folk-jazz, chamber slant on The Music of Paul Motian (Sunnyside, 2011), or morphing country, blues, and jazz on So Long 2nd Street (ACT, 2004), the guitarist often injects a newfangled twist within standard fare. On Holy Abyss, he co-leads with wunderkind Italian bassist Lorenzo Feliciati, supported by three eminent jazz artists for a quintessential progressive-jazz set, steeped in variable tempos, unorthodox digressions, sanguine balladry and a surfeit of intriguing slants.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison 7: Search

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For over a decade, Joel Harrison has been steadily expanding his palette as a composer, although his penchant for unorthodox instrumental combinations and multicultural folk forms encompass only one facet of his inclusive aesthetic. Harrison's most recent efforts have borrowed heavily from Western neo-classical tenets; The Wheel (Innova, 2008) included an expansive five movement suite for jazz quintet and string quartet, while The Music of Paul Motian (Sunnyside, 2011) featured stately arrangements performed by two electric guitarists and a traditional string quartet.Search contains some of Harrison's most seamlessly integrated writing for disparate forces to date. Supported by an ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison 7: Search

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Over the past decade, Joel Harrison has created a body of work distinct in its eclectic and multifaceted reach. Compositionally, the guitarist has worked in a variety of contexts, from the ambitious five-movement suite for string quartet and jazz quintet of The Wheel (Innova, 2008) and the pan-cultural, genre-busting Harbor (HighNote, 2007), where he found a particularly strong foil in Parisian guitarist Nguyên Lê, to his very personal and irrefutably modern homage to the emergent electric music of the early 1970s, Urban Myths (HighNote, 2009). He's also proven to be an astute interpreter, most notably on 2011's unusual The Music ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison String Choir: The Music of Paul Motian

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Joel Harrison has stretched the boundaries of form and freedom for over fifteen years, but Urban Myths (HighNote, 2009) and, in particular, the ambitious The Wheel (Innova, 2008), have represented significant evolutionary leaps. The Wheel married a conventional horn-led jazz quintet with a classical string quartet, its collection of Harrison originals pushing the limits of cross-pollination by eliminating all preconceived stylistic delineators. The Music of Paul Motian takes The Wheel's advancements a step further, focusing on Motian's writing, rather than the textural and temporally implicit playing approach that has made him such an ongoing role model for generations of drummers. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison: Urban Myths

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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 mist--the 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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison: Urban Myths

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With a string of outstanding records that began with his personal look at the music of George Harrison on Harrison on Harrison (HighNote, 2005), continued with an all-original pairing with guitarist Nguyên Lê on Harbor (HighNote, 2007) and culminated with the ambitious The Wheel (Innova, 2008), guitarist Joel Harrison has, over the last few years, been setting an increasingly high bar both compositionally and as a player.Most remarkable is that he's managed, each time, to reach that bar and, in many cases, surpass it. Urban Myths may be an homage of sorts, but it still possesses his personal ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison: The Wheel

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A wildly diverse improviser/composer/arranger with a penchant for unorthodox instrumental combinations, guitarist Joel Harrison has sustained one of the most unpredictable discographies of the last decade with his chimerical mix of jazz, blues, chamber music, African and Indian folk music, Appalachian tunes and old school country songs.

Nothing in his expansive output approaches the episodic grandeur of The Wheel however. A five part suite written for a combined string quartet and jazz quintet, Harrison's long-form work succeeds where many similar experiments have faltered.

Early attempts to integrate classical forms with jazz improvisation can be traced to ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joel Harrison: The Wheel

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Guitarist Joel Harrison has been quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) forging a path of adventure in modern music. Not necessarily content with arbitrary categories, he is discovering ways to utilize all the different musical streams of the world. He has used jazz improvisation as a starting point but it's never the be-all-end-all, the kind of thing that draws more attention to technique than to storytelling. His musicianship and that of his cohorts is always of the virtuoso variety but what you come away with is something much more. For The Wheel, Harrison's motivation was, he notes, ...



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