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Frank Harrison Trio: Lunaris

Dan McClenaghan By

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London-based pianist Frank Harrison is probably best known for his work backing saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, but his Lunaris should help to raise his profile as a major league piano trio guy. It's Harrison's third recorded effort in the trio format, and it stands out in a crowded field full of talent.

Harrison and the trio go against common advice and open with a ballad, a solemn, tender, gorgeously spacious take on David Raksin's tune from the 1954 movie Apache, "My Love and I." It's not the most familiar of Great American Songbook compositions, but saxophonist Coleman Hawkins put it on display on his Today and Now (Impulse! Records, 1963), and bassist Charlie Haden covered it with his Quartet West on Sophisticated Ladies ( Decca Records, 2011). Harrison, bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Enzo Zirille slow it down to a sensual crawl, wringing every drop of beauty from the melody. Don't open with a ballad unless you can do it this well.

The much covered "I'm Old Fashioned" rides a rhumba groove. Keith Jarrett and his Standard's Trio gave the same treatment to "Poinciana" on their Whisper Not (ECM Records, 2000) set, and here it acts as a perfect step-up-the-pace, brighten-the-room follow-up to the opener.

"Stars" is an abstract Harrison original, a solo piano effort, with delicate notes flashing like celestial lights blinking on in a dark sky, followed by what must be trio improvisation, the enigmatic "An Evening of Spacehips and UFOs," to let us know this isn't going to be a straight-though standards album—there's going to be more mystery and exploration here. The tune wanders in deep space until a gravitational pull asserts itself, drawing the trio into a groove. The Harrison original, "Io" (one of the planet Jupiter's four Galilean moons) has a subtle, eerie sheen added to the composition's majesty by the addition of Harrison's synthesizer colorings. "Sunrise (Port Meadow)" is bright and hopeful. "BoRG-58" is a prickly, muscular trio improvisation. Johnny Mandel's "Emily" has never sounded lovelier or more lively, with exceptional trio interplay, leading into the disc's closer, Harrison's solo "Stars II," a brief, lean, beautiful rumination.

Lunaris is a marvelous piano trio outing—fresh takes on some of the standards and a bunch of forward-leaning originals by piano star on the rise.

Track Listing: My Love and I; I'm Old Fashioned; Stars; An Evening of Spaceships and UFOs; Io; Sunrise (Port Meadow}; Ascent; The Bird; BoRG-58;The Recruited Colier; Emily; Stars II.

Personnel: Frank Harrison: piano, synthesizer; Dave Whitford: bass; Enzo Zirilli: drums.

Title: Lunaris | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Linus Records


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