As many are well aware, the Du Maurier Jazz Festival de Montreal is one of the finest jazz festivals in the world. Well, in this disc we get a chance to hear some of the fine local players who are typically obscured in the swath of so many "names" at such a great international jazz festival.
The Eric Harding group, featuring Frank Lozano on saxophones, Ron Seguin on bass, and Michel Lambert on drums, and Harding the leader, on piano, debuts here with a very nice album in the post-bop/modal vein composed almost entirely of their originals.
The opener on this disc "Chad's Waltz"- is a meditative piece, and sounds very loose. Harding shows right away why he is the leader, with a seamless solo that wastes no notes or sense of space. His playing has a lilting feel- very even but with a nice, reflexive touch. The saxophonist Frank Lozano meanwhile is of the post-Trane/Michael Brecker era sound- not as consciously polished as the latter but the approach is not an uncommon one. He has a full, woody tone and takes impassioned, if not unrelenting type solos. Lozano's playing is most well-featured on the cut "Wisdom Takes the Prize"- an up tempo piece that has him blowing over two sections: one over a static groove and then over modal changes at 8/4 (the tune has similar changes as Bobby Hutcherson's "8/4 beat"- instantly recognizable...). Harding takes a fine, fine solo.
The title track "Deadline" is a mood piece featuring Lozano on soprano. The tune has a nice progression in its melodic sections, lending well to its emotive development. Likewise does "Cedarwould", based like 8/4 on a familiar post-bop chord progression.
Whereas, "Redemption" sounds as intentful and glorified as the title would suggest. This is not surprisingly the modal tour-de-force of this album. It is based on a throbbing pulse rhythm not unlike one finds in many of Coltrane or McCoy Tyner's compositions, but which then segues into a more pleasant 4/4 section and then back out; it's a nice shift of feels within a composition. What is most telling here though is the manner in which solos are organized; first of all, the drummer takes the first solo- which totally creates intrigue, and then, the bass solo is taken, like the Coltrane quartet, rubato, and then finally- there is a piano cadenza after this solo that has the listener wondering whether we've moved onto the next track, or whether they're just taking us someplace else. Turns out it is the latter; because it is not so much of the Tyneresque feel it throws one for a loop. In retrospect it seems like a thoughtful attempt to diversify the whole Trane "sound."
That said, Harding, who studied under Fred Hersch, takes thoughtful melodic solos routinely and avoids pianistic cliches on his record. The influence of Hersch has probably worn on Harding in terms of having a tastefulness that threads through all of his eclectic leanings.
The remainder of this program is much of the same (in a good way)- fine originals that sound vaguely like things you've heard but don't sound derivative, just familiar, and which are executed with reflective approach and tightness from track to track.
When many post-bop players succumb to the urge to try and out-Trane Trane, this kind of restrained but still passionate record is a fine contribution to the scene. And it's out of Montreal, evidently on the basis of several releases on Effendi records, a hotbed of jazz creativity we have perhaps not been fully aware of.
Note: This recording is avalaible through Effendi Records, at www.effendirecords.qc.ca