10

Joel Harrison: Mother Stump

Dave Wayne By

Sign in to view read count
Joel Harrison: Mother Stump Given his proclivity for wildly eclectic, big-concept musical projects featuring improbable combinations of multi-ethnic instrumentalists, Joel Harrison is about the last guitarist I'd expect to record a funky slab of power-trio jazz-rock-funk fusion. Across the board, his guitaristic skills have taken a back seat to compositional concerns and rich, detailed arrangements. Yet, here is Mother Stump, Harrison's paean to 70s-era jazz-rooted, rock-powered, funked-up guitar-centric instrumental music. Moreover, Harrison has pointedly eschewed all of the studio polish and post-production nonsense that bogs down must fusion albums these days. Like the best music in any genre, Mother Stump derives its potency from its unvarnished enthusiasm, and its completely visceral approach. The focus here is squarely on Harrison's remarkable, individualistic guitar playing. Dude can write well, also. Far from the usual blather one finds in liner notes these days, Harrison recounts the inspirations behind this music: most coming from his experiences in the Washington D.C area as an avid young music fan, player and student during the late 60s into the early 80s. He name checks some of the area's best jazz, soul and rock musicians, people he admired as a teenager and some—like Terry Plumeri, Roy Buchanan, and especially Danny Gatton—whose names have been forgotten due to changing fashions and the harsh realities of the music business.

Harrison also name-checks Nels Cline and Bill Frisell in his liners, and if those guitarists exemplify the general spirit of what Mother Stump is all about, then: Mission Accomplished. I'd also add Terje Rypdal to the list. As a soloist, Harrison is gloriously transgressive, and his use of all manner of effects is quite inspired. His overall sound, particularly on "John The Revelator" owes a little to Frisell's gonzo period, when he was making albums like Power Tools (Antilles Records, 1987) and Lookout For Hope (ECM Records, 1987) and gigging with John Zorn's Naked City. The rest of Mother Stump, however, proves Harrison to be very much his own man. Even the tunes Harrison's chosen for this album—as disparate as they are—seem have a deep personal significance, and the band's interpretations are heartfelt and brim with warmth. A couple of them, such as Buddy Miller's "Wide River To Cross" are rooted in folk music, yet Harrison's interpretations are anything but mawkish and countrified. On the other hand, "Stratusphunk" is a freewheeling avant-jazz coup de chapeau to the undersung composer / arranger George Russell. Harrison's originals, though primarily vehicles for extended soloing, are quick-witted and substantial. "Refuge," with Glenn Patscha's mellow Rhodes leading the way, is an ECM-like ballad with an icily resigned air, while "Do You Remember Big Mama Thornton" melds a Zappa-esque turnaround with a bass line nipped from Al Greene's "Can't Get Next To You."

Bassist Michael Bates and drummer Jeremy Clemons are not just along for the ride; they challenge and prod Harrison at every turn. Bates, already well-known to jazz fans as a composer, leader and recording artist in his own right, has a warm, woody acoustic bass tone that gives the music an earthy, down-home flavor; most evident on "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" and "Dance With My Father Again." Clemons, a young drummer from St. Louis, is a real find. An exciting player, Clemons can play free and funky with equal ease and has worked with the Ark Superfunk Collective, Corey Wilkes, and Stacy Dillard. He's utterly fearless when it comes to thunderous fills and unexpected rhythmic modulations. Somehow, he inserts off- kilter drum'n'bass rhythms into the spacy freejazz of Paul Motian's "Folk Song For Rosie," and it works. Yet, he knows when to lay back and let the music breathe, as on the band's stark interpretation of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne." Glenn Patscha, best known as a co-founder of the folk-rock band Ollabelle, adds tasty, authentic period keyboards to about half of the tracks.

A brilliant and soulful hour's worth of music, Joel Harrison's Mother Stump is a welcome antidote to mass- produced, slick guitar-based fusion.

Track Listing: John the Revelator; Folk Song For Rosie; Wide River To Cross; Refuge; Do You Remember Big Mama Thornton?; I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know; Stratusphunk; Folk Song For Rosie (a slight return); Suzanne; Dance With My Father Again; Wide River To Cross (Part 2).

Personnel: Joel Harrison: guitars; Michael Bates: bass; Jeremy Clemons: drums; Glenn Patscha: Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond B3 organ, Wurlitzer piano (3-6, 9, 11).

Title: Mother Stump | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Second Act CD/LP/Track Review Second Act
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Imaga Mondo CD/LP/Track Review Imaga Mondo
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Port Of Call CD/LP/Track Review Port Of Call
by John Sharpe
Published: August 23, 2017
Read May I Introduce To You CD/LP/Track Review May I Introduce To You
by James Nadal
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Honey And Salt CD/LP/Track Review Honey And Salt
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 22, 2017
Read To the Bone CD/LP/Track Review To the Bone
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 22, 2017
Read "Pandora's Bag" CD/LP/Track Review Pandora's Bag
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 25, 2017
Read "Layers" CD/LP/Track Review Layers
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 1, 2016
Read "Dream Within A Dream" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "The Better Angels of Our Nature" CD/LP/Track Review The Better Angels of Our Nature
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 20, 2017
Read "Around The Horn" CD/LP/Track Review Around The Horn
by Jeff Winbush
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Heart Of Gold: Live In Aarhus" CD/LP/Track Review Heart Of Gold: Live In Aarhus
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 19, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.