Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

482

Joel Harrison: Harbor

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Since his 2003 breakout Free Country (ACT), Joel Harrison has focused largely on liberal and highly unliteral takes of traditional songs, popular country tunes and, on Harrison on Harrison (HighNote, 2005), the music of the late George Harrison.

Harbor represents a couple of significant departures from Harrison's recent recorded work. First, it's a return to all-original composition. Second, while it reunites the guitarist with altoist David Binney (a constant companion since Free Country), it's a first and very inspired meeting with guitarist Nguyên Lê, percussionist Jamey Haddad and bassist Gildas Bocle, who flesh out the group for six of Harbor's eight tracks.

Harrison is loath to consider musical compartmentalization, even when it refers to the commingling of culturally and stylistically diverse sources. There are countless reference points to be found on Harbor including African rhythms, Indian and Middle Eastern linearity, jazz harmony, hints of electronica, modern classical and flat-out fusion. What's most remarkable, however, is Harrison's ability to integrate, rendering irrelevant the identification of his sources in lieu of compositions that range from edgy angularity to sheer beauty, and from through-composition still rife for interpretation to more clearly open- ended vehicles for improvisation.

Lêis the perfect foil for Harrison. Both are capable of spontaneous melodism, jagged skronking and broader textural development, but in complementary ways that occupy such mutually exclusive space that differentiation is never an issue (though, for the most part, Lê is heard on the left channel, Harrison on the right).

Lês ability to suggest oriental microtonality on tracks like the episodic "You Bring the Rain" only makes for more vivid contrast with Harrison, who brings a piece of the Mississippi Delta to "Blue Ghosts of Bourbon Street." The latter evolves through a series of shifts in pulse thanks to Haddad's uncanny polyrhythmic approach, ultimately heading north towards a Midwestern vibe. Haddad, who seamlessly moves from kit to hand percussion, is Harbor's secret weapon—a percussionist with the broadest possible frame of reference necessary to further open up Harrison's already expansive writing.

The benefit of not being burdened with the responsibilities of leader, writer and producer means that Binney is able to focus completely on playing, His Carnatic-centric solo on "You Bring the Rain" is an early highlight, while his powerful work on the more chaotic "End Time" a later one.

Harbor's two middle tracks feature—Binney aside—an entirely different group. While eschewing delineated solos, the atmospheric "The Refugee" demonstrates how expression and interaction can still be used to build the almost relentless repetition of a simple theme to a dramatic climax before releasing into a softer coda.

That the playing on Harbor is uniformly outstanding is a given. What makes it an early contender for one of 2007's best is Harrison's emergence as a writer who entirely dispenses with boundaries and, instead, creates his own pan-cultural and multi-stylistic mélange that's as timeless as it is thoroughly modern.

Track Listing: You Bring the Rain; Blue Ghosts of Bourbon Street; End Time; The Refugee; Hudson Shining; Harbor; American Babylon; Les Fréres un ut majeur (Brothers in C Major).

Personnel: Joel Harrison: guitar; David Binney: alto saxophone; Nguyên Lê: guitar (1-3, 6-8); Gildas Bocle: bass (1-3, 6-8); Jamey Haddad: percussion (1-3, 6-8); Henry Hey: piano (4, 5); Stephan Crump: bass (4, 5); Jordan Perlson: drums (4), percussion (5); Satoshi Takeishi: drums (5), percussion (4); Marty Wehner: trombone (2).

Title: Harbor | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: HighNote Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read OR CD/LP/Track Review OR
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Reaching Out CD/LP/Track Review Reaching Out
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 18, 2018
Read The Songbook Project CD/LP/Track Review The Songbook Project
by Don Phipps
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Solo a Genova CD/LP/Track Review Solo a Genova
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Satoko Fujii Solo CD/LP/Track Review Satoko Fujii Solo
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 17, 2018
Read when the shade is stretched CD/LP/Track Review when the shade is stretched
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2018
Read "The Chicago Blues Box 2" CD/LP/Track Review The Chicago Blues Box 2
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 9, 2017
Read "Fukushima" CD/LP/Track Review Fukushima
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 1, 2017
Read "So Nice!" CD/LP/Track Review So Nice!
by Jeff Winbush
Published: August 30, 2017
Read "Saluting Sgt. Pepper" CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 23, 2017
Read "The Joy of Being" CD/LP/Track Review The Joy of Being
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 1, 2017
Read "Agrima" CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 18, 2017