First glances suggested this was going to be another quirky avant-garde project (taking in account the name of the band and the album cover), yet things proved to be quite different and in the end Reoccurring Dream blossomed into a mainstream set of substantial strength. Now just because we’re talking about working “within the tradition,” doesn’t mean this is another one of those hard bop retreads. For one thing, the ensemble make-up assures that. Lead instrumentalist and clarinetist Darryl Harper, a native of Philadelphia and graduate of the jazz program at Rutgers, fronts a quintet that also includes guitar, piano, bass, and drums. Harper’s own approach falls somewhere between the audacious work of Don Byron and more conventional models such as Jimmy Hamilton and Pee Wee Russell.
Attention-grabbing twists and turns keep things popping on a number of well-arranged standards. For instance, Mingus’ “Nostalgia in Times Square” is only taken in full-fledged manner after Harper hints at Coltrane’s take on “Inchworm.” For “Night and Day” the melody comes into play after a catchy vamp and pianist Kyle Koehler’s adroit piano spot. Harper’s own works tread on appealing ground, including the lovely ballad sentiments expressed in “Kiss Me Again” and the modal waltz “Narcolepsy.” In the final analysis, this date speaks confidently with poise and maturity and that clearly has something to do with the empathy that Harper and cohorts have developed over the past four years together working as a unit.
Track Listing: Nostalgia in Times Square, Kiss Me Again, Reoccurring Dream, Night and Day, I Wonder, Letter To My Brother, Falling Leaves, Narcolepsy, Caliban's Nightmare
Personnel: Darryl Harper (clarinet), Jeff Ray (guitar), Kyle Koehler (piano), Matthew Parrish (bass), Harry "Butch" Reed (drums)