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Harvie S, Sheryl Bailey, Steve Johns: Nyack, NY, July 29, 2012

David A. Orthmann By

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Harvie S, Sheryl Bailey, Steve Johns
Nyack Jazz Week at the Turning Point Cafe
Piermont, NY
July 29, 2012

Sometimes auspicious events occur in unlikely circumstances. The last part of Nyack Jazz Week 2012 was billed as a closing night concert with surprise guests, followed by a jam session. Long before the first set began, some of the invited guests arrived, instruments in tow, eager to play. All of this activity forecast a night filled with familiar tunes, and lengthy solos of varying degrees of competence. But before the vagaries of jazz as democracy commenced, there was the matter of the debut of a cooperative trio comprised of bassist Harvie S, guitarist Sheryl Bailey, and drummer Steve Johns.

The trio's 45-minute set, short by today's standards, was filled with a splendid tension between individualism and group interplay. During S' affable improv on "An Unexpected Turn" (one of Bailey's three originals in the set), Johns weighed in with irregularly placed hits to the bass drum. Bailey's chords squirmed around S' impeccable lines and then landed squarely on top of each beat. While Johns' brushes held things in place on the head of "Masa's Bag," S nimbly played the melody in unison with the guitarist; the second time around he executed a conventional walking bass line. Bailey stayed right with S through his changes in dynamics in the middle of the bassist's "Off Minor" solo, and then she offered extra- musical support in the form of one syllable utterances and gleeful laughter.

Bailey doesn't fit into the ranks of persistent, notey plectrists; nor does she resemble those who are beholden to blues or rock orthodoxy. Moreover, clichés and easily recognizable improvisational strategies are nowhere to be found. Like her work throughout the rest of the set, a "For All Those Living" solo encompassed a great deal of information, as she juxtaposed single notes and chords in unpredictable ways. While restlessly making changes in phrasing and velocity, stability prevailed, as if she was working from a blueprint inside her head. Amidst Johns' persistent bass drum, Bailey wrung a series of keening notes from the instrument, followed by run-on singles and slick, groove oriented chords. Using a painterly approach to S' ballad-like "Before," she executed a brief brush stroke of a chord, pointed, high notes, and low rumbling tones. A coherent narrative was evident throughout all of this movement up and down the instrument.

In a time when casual, impromptu performances are rapidly becoming the norm, groups like this one, even in an embryonic state, are a godsend. S, Bailey, and Johns deserve more opportunities to cultivate their chemistry, and develop an even deeper sound. Here's hoping that more gigs, a recording, and widespread recognition are in the trio's future.

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