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Stu Harrison: Volume 1

Dan McClenaghan By

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Toronto-based pianist Stu Harrison doesn't boast much of an internet presence, so we'll go with the music: Stu Harrison: Volume I is a celebration of the standard piano trio format, a joyful immersion into ten familiar tunes, beginning with Lerner & Lowe's "The Street where You Live," from My Fair Lady soundtrack. The lively take on the tune puts Harrison, for this particular tune, in the old school, with a bouncy, sparkling sound that brings Red Garland and Oscar Peterson to mind, a sound full of freshness and spontaneity. "Blame it On My Youth," a tune covered by everyone from Carmen McRae, to Frank Sinatra to Nat King Cole," gets a gospel injection, featuring a slow, soulful role from the pianist and his veteran trio mates, bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Terry Clarke; and "Place St. Henry," from the pen of Oscar Peterson, rides in a fast-forward, festive romp, followed by the venerable "Body And Soul," a particularly graceful and fluid rendition of the time-tested standard

The music was laid down in two sessions, in a mostly one-take mode, and the immediacy of creation shines through, as the trio skips—after a searching rubato opening by the pianist—into into an invigorated version of Dave Brubeck's "In Your own Sweet Way" that snaps and pops with a brisk trio interplay.

Irving Berlin's "Cheek To Cheek," features Harrison opening in a stride piano groove that slips into a zesty and debonair rollick, that leads into the much more serious atmosphere of the Eden Ahbez's dark-toned "Nature Boy," adding a modern hue to the proceedings. Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca," one of the legendary trumpeter's most famous compositions, isn't heard much in a trio setting—it was written with Gillespie's big, bright Afro-Cuban ensemble in mind; but Harrison supplies a fitting arrangement, and comes up with a gem.

After The Red Garland and Oscar Peterson comparison's earlier, the name Bill Evans comes up, with Harrision's rendition of "Young And Foolish." The harmonic depth, the shimmer around the edges beauty, the light yet purposeful, prayerful melodic touch. Marvelous!

Track Listing: On The Street Where You Live; Blame It On My Youth; Place St. Henri; Body And Soul; In You Own Sweet Way; Cheek To Cheek; Nature Boy; Manteca; My Romance; Young & Foolish.

Personnel: Stu Harrison: piano; Neil Swainson: bass; Terry Clarke: drums.

Title: Volume 1 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: One Nightstand Records


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