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David L. Harris: Blues I Felt

Dan Bilawsky By

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The blues isn't merely a form or genre. It's an emotional response, a personal internalization of an idea that invites extemporization in its reflection. While there's a specific progression and certain stylistic considerations that mark music as such, there's undeniable variety within the fixed aspects. No two people feel, sing, or play the blues exactly the same way, and that's the point here. Blues I Felt is built around the way trombonist-vocalist David L. Harris sees it.

On this, his debut date, Harris delivers a tradition-informed set that never feels old-fashioned. His lyrical sensibilities light the way, his pen produces a fair number of enjoyable originals, and his obvious reverence for departed masters—Tyree Glenn, Jack Teagarden, J. C. Higginbotham, and Ellingtonians like "Tricky Sam" Nanton and Lawrence Brown—informs his work, as does an interest in more bracing sounds. The old and the new are perfectly content to mix and mingle in Harris' music. It's that acceptance of both that makes this a standout.

Harris' horn glides over an uncertain yet upbeat rumble as the album's curtain opens on "Pisces' Dream." The song eventually settles into a gentle Latin flow set atop an arching bass ostinato, giving Harris a chance to fly and express the mixed emotions connected to a dream for two that evolves into a journey for one. Sundry sentiments continue to carry the day as sadness leavened by hopefulness takes "Bein' Green" from the expected to the new. There's a sunny sound and spirit in Harris that shines in both instances.

As the album continues, Harris delivers one smile-inducing song after another. The swinging "Dewy's Notion" pays tribute to Delfeayo Marsalis and gives drummer Miles Labat a chance to take the spotlight as his brushwork plays off of and around the band, "Mood Indigo" comes in on a gentle breeze and goes out on a soulful wind, "The Point To See" moves over a slow "Poinciana"-ish groove while Harris and pianist Shea Pierre treat it gently, and "Moody's Mood For Love" gives the leader a chance to step into Eddie Jefferson's large shoes for a spell.

There are myriad opportunities to appreciate Harris' plunger mute mastery, conversational and confessional vocals, and liquid phrasing throughout. He clearly knows his way around the horn and he's developed a real sense of self built on the history he's soaked up in and around the New Orleans institutions where he studied and those haunts where he now works. Some of this music might've been bettered with a bit of full bore blowing—Harris almost seems a tad reluctant to kick it into the higher gears during those rare instances where the rest of the band muscles up—but that's a small quibble that takes little to nothing away from a largely successful album from an ascending talent. The blues that David L. Harris feels come through with beauty and clarity here. He's definitely one to keep an eye on.

Track Listing: A Pisces' Dream; Bein' Green; Dewy's Notion; Mood Indigo; DJ's Induction; Old Man Speaks; There Will Be A Time; The Point To See; Moody's Mood For Love; There Is No Greater Love.

Personnel: David L. Harris: trombone, vocals; Shea Pierre: piano; Jasen Weaver: bass; Miles Labat: drums; Shannon Powell: drums (4).

Title: Blues I Felt | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced

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