While art often takes cues from life, and life certainly offers up its fair share of trials, tribulations, and dark spells, pianist Lafayette Harris, Jr. prefers to emphasize the positive while pouring existential thought into his music.
On Bend To The Light
the seventh offering from Harris over the past twenty-plus yearshope, happiness, and positive vibes dominate. He delivers uplifting originals that point to his past and present, investigates the work of artists as different as pop-soul crooner Luther Vandross and pianist-composer Herbie Nichols
, tackles songbook favorites, and engages in pleasant musical conversation with his distinguished trio matesdrummer Willie Jones III
, who's worked with Harris in vocalist Ernestine Anderson
's band, and bassist Lonnie Plaxico
, who appeared on Harris' first leader date and also spent time with the pianist in the employ of Anderson.
Together, these three, along with the occasional guest, sail and skate along as Harris presents an autobiographical playlist in fairly understated fashion. There's the title track, a number written for Harris' sons that's meant to emphasize the need to spread good in this world; the lightly swinging "Achem," referencing a town in Germany where the piece was penned; "Old Devil Moon" and "Tenderly," two classics that Harris loves to work through; a dedication to Harris' mother in the form of "Geneva," a song with odd-metered bookends and 4/4 swing at its core; and a take on Nichols' "12 Bars" that was arranged by Harris' dear friend, trombone great Roswell Rudd
. A third of the material, including the aforementioned "Achem" and the florid and moving "Japanese Love Poem," appears on previous Harris releases, but those pieces come off fresh as can be here. With a new band and plenty more experience under his belt, Harris is now able to go to places where he didn't or couldn't travel before.
This version of the Lafayette Harris, Jr. Trio doesn't reinvent the wheel or push any boundaries, but that's quite all right. Instead, this group spreads good cheer while articulately expressing itself and bringing Harris' music to life. That's more than enough to deem this recording a success.
Bend To The Light; Take You Out; We In The House; 12 Bars; Achern; Japanese Love Poem; Old Devil Moon; Blues On The Edge; Tenderly; Geneva; Bend To The Light (Vocal Version); We In The House (Short Version).
Lafayette Harris Jr.: piano; Lonnie Plaxico: bass; Willie Jones III: drums; Thomas Dyani: percussion (2, 6); Jazzmeia Horn: vocals (11).