On Riverbeast, Dutch harmonica player Hermine Deurloo winds her way through a wide variety of musical settings. And with Kevin Hays manning the piano, Tony Scherr holding it down on guitar and bass guitar, and Steve Gadd behind the kit, there's no place she can go where a comfortable feel won't follow.
The album opens on Deurloo's "The Man with the Hat (on the Train)," a setting using a Steely Dan-worthy foundation to support a simple and catchy melody. Then it's off to Ann Peebles territory for a soulful read on "If We Can't Trust Each Other," featuring vocalist Alain Clark; and over to guitarist Luca Benedetti's West African-indebted "Hoop and Pole," featuring the composer alongside the aforementioned titans. Those first three songs couldn't be more dissimilar in style yet there's a continuity and through-line in expression, thanks to the leader's instrumental voice and solid sidemen, that ties them up in a neat bow.
What follows looks here, there and everywhere while remaining joined together by the aforementioned unifiers. "So Long, Redhead," benefitting from Hays' phosphorescent Rhodes work, proves refreshing and invigorating. The title track, with Scott Robinson dropping in to add some low-key bass clarinet work, and Marika Hughes and Hank Roberts moving below on cello, offers a swampy, good-time groove in five. "Zombie Chicken" rocks with winking charm. And "Song for My Sister" sashays along in amiable fashion.
More than half of Riverbeast's material comes from Deurloo's pen, with a few one-off inclusions from outside sources also making an appearance. But the album's last two slots are reserved for the only two contributions from core band members. Hays' "Walk with Me" proves funky, with the composer adding his slick vocals at the surface, and Scherr's "Blueberry Hell" plays towards its obvious inspiration, riding a very laidback, woozy shuffle. As with everything else on the album, both of those tracks focus more on a vibe than any particular feats of strength. In the end, as at the beginning and on everything in the middle, that strategy works out just fine for Hermine Deurloo.
The Man with the Hat (on the Train); If We Can't Trust Each Other; Hoop and Pole; So Long,
Redhead; Riverbeast; Doctors Wind; Zombie Chicken; The Road to Gargonza; Song For My
Sister; Walk With Me; Blueberry Hell.
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