Accompanied by the hugely conversant John Raymond
on trumpet and flugelhorn, saxophonist Brandon Wozniak
, Expressionism-steeped pianist Bryan Nichols
and the fluid viscosity of rhythm brothers bassist Chris Bates
and drummer JT Bates
, Zacc Harris
whose tonal voyage could be immediately likened to that of John Scofield
(if only Harris didn't harken and manage all his influences so damn well)creates on Small Wonders
a very lucid, warm and easy vibe one cannot help being explicably drawn to. It is a vibe many have been drawn to, that cool Blue Note sound which follows us through the years, and that still fascinates, captures the imagination and, in the case of Small Wonders
On this sextet's second orbit around concept and beauty, the art of inquiry is the cornerstone. Written with his two small children foremost in mind, Harris gathers from all the rivulets of daily life, creative life, future dreams and lessons gleaned from his fertile association with the McKnight Fellowship Award winning, free-wheeling Atlantis Quartet
and, once presenting them to the band, lets the narrative begin.
And it is a story to hear again and again, actually. "Ominous Skies" might sound like a cautionary opener with its dark bass and modal stance, but it soon expands into one with post-bop dynamism that, as clearly stated above, draws listeners in as Harris and Raymond quickly take hold of the tune's many flight paths. The sound may be blue but it is anything but.
"Sundials" breezes in on a Latin sparkle as Harris, Raymond, and Wozniak (who stands at Harris' side both here and in the Atlantis Quartet) roam wide-eyed between Nichols' effusive comping and the Bates Brothers limpid muscle. "Civil Dawn" moves structurally from brisk melodic invention based on dark, scalar movement through a rubato Nichols passage into a half-time ensemble sweep that is impossible not to tell fellow jazzers about. "The Void" quickly establishes itself as Small Wonders
' full-on blow- out track. Everyone sports a highlight here, JT Bates and Nichols especially. "Happy Jacks," an assured nod to the effortless, time-honored groove of Ahmad Jamal
finds Harris et al at their lyrical, playful best.
In times of civilizational change, it becomes increasingly important to know that our traditions, in this case the whole of the music, is being forwarded by musicians who perpetuate and innovate. Rest assured, Zacc Harris Group is well aware.
Ominous Skies; Sundials; Glass Houses; Civil Dawn; A Beautiful Life; The Void; Mixed Signals;
Apple Jacks; Maya Song.