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Joe Harriott-Amancio D’Silva Quartet: Hum Dono

Duncan Heining By

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All credit to Dutton Vocalion for making Hum Dono available again. It's open to question, of course, whether the record should be seen as a Harriott date at all. The Goan guitarist, Amancio D'Silva, is certainly more than a junior partner here and provides five of the record's six tunes, as well as shaping its whole vibe. The only track credited to Harriott is the short improvised duet with drummer Bryan Spring, "Sping Low, Sweet Harriott." Perhaps Hum Dono is better seen as a partner to D'Silva's own, and truly lovely, Integration, which features members of the Rendell-Carr Quintet.

D'Silva had a unique style. Imagine if Wes Montgomery, or maybe Tal Farlow, had played sitar rather than guitar and you may have some idea of his sound. He died in 1996 and it seems tragic that he left so little recorded music behind. It is that, as much as Harriott's superlative playing, that makes Hum Dono so very special.

"Stephano's Dance," written for the guitarist's son -also a guitarist, who provides some highly informative sleeve notes—opens with an underlying 4/4 pulse but with a counter rhythm in 6/8 on top. The flavour is immediately that of the sub-continent, its sense of exoticism amplified by Norma Winstone's wordless vocals. Spring and bassist Dave Green provide a rapid, propulsive beat before Harriott enters with a solo that tugs away at the melody relentlessly. Ian Carr's trumpet seems more in line with the raga-like melody but the contrast between his playing and Harriott's provides the tune with its dynamic force. The tune is three-quarters over before D'Silva takes his solo. His presence has been evident throughout comping in the background but now he spins out long, twisting melodies rich in invention and eastern swing.

The guitarist starts "Ballad For Goa" with a brief cadenza before stating the melancholy rhythm with gently stroked chords. Then it shifts pace, as it opens out with a blues-tinged contribution from Harriott. Winstone picks up beautifully from Harriott's final notes, as her voice seems to span both the occident and orient, one moment bluesy and jazzy, the next something more folk-like. D'Silva's solo is almost a duet with Dave Green, with intriguing out of time passages before the group returns to the opening theme. "N.N.N.T." is quite different and were it not for the uniqueness of D'Silva's east-meets-west stylistic approach would count as pure bebop. It's the least Indian-influenced piece here, delivered at a fast pace and with a different intensity compared to the other tracks.

Both "N.N.N.T." and the title track features the quartet on its own. "Hum Dono" itself makes you wish that Harriott and D'Silva had had more opportunities to record together, as the saxophonist achieves a level of empathy with the music that he never quite achieved with John Mayer and Indo-Jazz Fusions. It's best described as a wild, swirling dance with Harriott and the guitarist circling each other against a background that seems to include hand drums from Bryan Spring. D'Silva's own solo builds on both the tune's raga scale and on a repeated motif. Simply, it's a tour de force and exemplifies an approach to the instrument that fuses both the Indian and jazz influences perfectly.

And finally, there is the much-sampled "Jaipur" with both Winstone and Carr added and in great voice. I can never listen to this track without imagining the scene in the recording studio. First, D'Silva's spidery lines spun from his guitar, then the sheer delight that must have resulted from Carr and Winstone's bravura duet over the bouncing, pulsating rhythms of Green and Spring and then Harriott playing not just for himself but for the band and, as always, for the music. "Jaipur" is one for that "desert island" list and as the theme returns just imagine these six musicians knowing instinctively that this was a genuinely special date. Five stars? I'll give it six!

Track Listing: Tracks: Stephano's Dance; Spring Low Sweet Harriott; Ballad for Goa; N.N.N.T.; Hum Dono; Jaipur.

Personnel: Personnel: Joe Harriott alto saxophone; Amancio D'Silva guitar; Dave Green bass; Bryan Spring drums; Ian Carr trumpet tracks 1, 6 only; Norma Winstone voice tracks 1, 2, 6 only.

Title: Hum Dono | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Dutton Vocalion


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