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Threeway with special guest John Etheridge: Harken!

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Threeway with special guest John Etheridge: Harken!
2024 marks the 20th anniversary of Threeway. This chamber jazz trio without drums consists of bassist Ben Crosland, pianist Steve Lodder and Steve Waterman on trumpet and flugelhorn. They have released three previous albums on the Jazz Cat label: Conversations (2005), Songs of the Year (2009) and Looking Forward, Looking Back (2013). For this recording, they have recruited guitarist John Etheridge. Between them, the four musicians have extensive experience, having played with artists as diverse as Carla Bley, Mal Waldron, Soft Machine and Bobby Wellins.

The album title, Harken! comes from the school that Crosland attended. Sedbergh is a small town in the shadow of the Howgill Fells on the border of Cumbria and North Yorkshire. Sedbergh School is a public school (similar to a private school in the US) founded in 1525. Their key values of humility, ambition, resilience and kindness are denoted by the acronym HARK. With the school approaching its 500th birthday, Crosland has composed The Hark Suite, consisting of four pieces portraying these values. Those compositions are joined by three more from Crosland, two from Waterman and one each from Lodder and Etheridge. There is also a cover of a Joni Mitchell song.

The album opens with Waterman playing a strong swinging melody on his composition, "Welshcake." Crosland's bass provides the impetus and Lodder's solo is fluid and inventive. Crosland, who usually finds the inspiration for his songs from places and people, has two songs dedicated to his cats. The first, "Billie's Blessing, is a gorgeous ballad. All the solos are superb, but Waterman steals the show. "Lester Lopes Out" is the other feline-inspired track and features Lodder on Hammond C3 organ.

"Humility" is the first part of The Hark Suite. Etheridge delivers an inspired solo with Waterman and Lodder, this time on Fender Rhodes, entwining around the melody. "Ambition" swings with a bright melody, highlighted by Etheridge's eloquent and expressive guitar. Etheridge adds a new dimension to the trio sound; he opens "Resilience" with some bluesy rock licks before solos from Lodder and Waterman. Crosland's bass drives the groove into slick L.A. territory at times. The mellow melody of "Kindness" brings balm with Waterman's catchy melody and Etheridge's laidback solo.

Covering a Mitchell track can be a risk, but the trio are well-practiced and Waterman finds exactly the right tone for "Black Crow" as Crosland drives the track and Lodder brings a fine solo. "Lonely Streets" is terrific, with Lodder and Waterman combining to evoke a film noir atmosphere. Elsewhere, Etheridge's "AB4BC" is a sleazy blues, Lodder's "Lazy Susan" has an insistent theme and Crosland's tribute to a former mentor, "Cairnbank," has a neat Hammond C3 organ solo.

The depth of the experience of the musicians shows throughout this recording. Their solidarity and friendship elevates their performances and the strength of the compositions takes the album up a further level. They come across as relaxed, yet their playing is meticulous. Technique, imagination, subtlety and charm come together to make this an absorbing listening experience.

Track Listing

Welshcake; Billie's Blessing; AB4BC; Humility; Ambition; Resilience; Kindness; Lazy Susan; Cairnbank; Black Crow; Lonely Streets; Lester Lopes Out.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Steve Lodder: Fender Rhodes, Hammond C3 organ; Steve Waterman: flugelhorn.

Album information

Title: Harken! | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Jazz Cat


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