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Harrison Bankhead Quartet — Velvet Blue

Harrison Bankhead Quartet — Velvet Blue

USA Flag Harrison Bankhead Quartet — Velvet Blue
 ≈  The Chicago-based jazz bassist Harrison Bankhead is an avant-garde-leaning musician with a journeyman's ability to fit within an array of jazz styles from straight-ahead to free jazz. A native of Waukegan, Illinois, Bankhead has performed with a variety of artist including Oliver Lake, Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Thompson, Hamid Drake, and others. He released the solo album Morning Sun Moon Harvest in 2011.
Location: Waukegan ~ Chicago, Illinois
Styles: Avant-Garde Jazz, Free Improvisation, Modern Free
Member of:
• 8 Bold Souls
Frequency
Roscoe Mitchell & the Note Factory
Album release: November 12, 2013
Recorded on March 29th, 2013 at Northfire Recording Studios, Amherst, MA by Steven Walcott.
Record Label: Engine Studios
Duration:     79:11
Tracks:
01 Velvet Blue     15:15
02 After Hours     9:12
03 Right On It     6:41
04 Ancestors of the Pharaohs of Nabta Playa     9:08    
05 Take it to the Bridge Ya’ll     4:59
06 Rhythm of the Earth     13:55
07 A Sketch of Stravinski     13:56
Artists Moods: Bravado Cerebral Difficult Enigmatic Fiery Freewheeling Improvisatory Joyous Knotty Reflective Searching Trippy
Personnel:
Harrison Bankhead — bass
Mars Williams — alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, kalimba
Ed Wilkerson — tenor saxophone, clarinet, alto clarinet
Avreeayl Ra — drums, thumb piano
Credits:
•   Harrison Bankhead  Bass, Primary Artist
•   Robert Bielecki  Executive Producer
•   Anjali Grant  Design
•   Avreeayl Ra  Drums, Piano (Thumb)
•   Steven Walcott  Engineer, Mastering, Mixing
•   Ed Wilkerson  Clarinet, Clarinet (Alto), Dijaredo, Harmonica, Sax (Tenor)
•   Mars Williams  Kalimba, Sax (Alto), Sax (Soprano), Sax (Tenor)
REVIEW
By MARK CORROTO, Published: December 10, 2013
•   Harrison Bankhead's time has come. The Advancement of Creative Music (AACM) is on a roll with the release of Velvet Blue. For decades, the bassist has been the bedrock upon which great Chicago jazz has been built. He was the foundation for legendary players like Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Malachi Thompson and a collaborator with Nicole Mitchell in the Indigo Trio and Hamid Drake and Ernest Dawkins with the Chicago Trio.
•   In 2011, he released Morning Sun Harvest Moon (Engine Studios/http://www.allmusic.com/album/morning-sun-harvest-moon-mw0002123300) his first recording as a leader. With Velvet Blue he returns again with drummer Avreeayl Ra and two saxophonists, 8 Bold Souls collaborator Ed Wilkerson and Mars Williams.
•   The fifteen minute title track opens the session, with Bankhead's bass walking a bluesy workout that crosses Williams' tenor and Wilkerson's clarinet, before it opens into a two- saxophone skirmish. Bankhead's powerful and oh-so-steady pulse acts as resin here (and throughout) defining the boundaries of the engagement. Two- thirds of the song passes before his solo saturates the soundstage with pulse and a visceral feeling.
•   Bankhead plays off the inside groove, allowing his band to work the outer edges. •   "Right On It" burns even hotter with the bassist racing his fingers against Ra's furious drumming and the saxophone precipitation. But this isn't just a blowing session. •   The bassist's AACM affiliation necessitates the exploration of meditative sounds. "After Hours" marries harmonica with odd percussion, scrapings, and some uncredited piano, and "Ancestors of the Pharaohs of Nabta Playa" opens with thumb piano, didgeridoo, and kalimba. The sounds underscore Williams snake-like soprano saxophone explorations. Bankhead balances the firebrand pieces "Take it to the Bridge Ya'll" with moody meditations like "A Sketch of Stravinski" played with bowed strings and saturnine horns. (http://www.allaboutjazz.com/) / Squidco: http://www.squidco.com/
REVIEW
BY S. VICTOR AARON NOVEMBER 4, 2013
   One of the most self-effacing musicians of Chicago’s AACM scene paradoxically creates some of its boldest music, and bassist Harrison Bankhead’s second album confirms that Morning Sun Harvest Moon was no one-off fluke.
   After decades contenting himself as a sidemen to avant-jazz luminaries from Roscoe Mitchell to Fred Anderson, the Waukegan, Illinois native revealed himself on the debut album to be a very capable leader and composer, and does it again with Velvet Blue. Here he leads a formidable quartet of fellow Chicagoans, all of whom lent vital support to Bankhead’s first album. His precise, steady bass playing that gave a groove to so much great avant-jazz from the Windy City is applied to his own adventurous songs spanning his new record. His own musical concepts are rooted deeply in tradition while branching out to the limits of what’s possible from four skilled multi-instrumentalists. And it takes no time at all for them to start realizing those possibilities.
   “Velvet Blue,”  the song, has the depth, swing and emotional character that makes up some of the finest jazz right from Bankhead’s opening circular bass figure, and Avreeayl Ra’s softly parlayed cymbals enhances that feel. Mars Williams’ tenor sax soon crafts soulful expressions and Ed Wilkerson’s clarinet fills in any gaps; soon the two are switching roles. Ten minutes in, everyone but Bankhead recedes, and the leader keeps the groove going no matter how far he steps out. Ra returns doing that sublime thing he does throughout the album: freestyle on his drums in subdued, supportive ways.    When the reeds return it appears they’re going to exploit the groove some more but soon have a spiritual outburst, and the commotion settle down leaving a smoldering pile of rubble at the end of the quarter-hour performance. But by then, Bankhead has taken us through a whole range of so much of what makes jazz so fascinating. “Rhythm of the Earth,” which begins with an increasingly intense Ra drum solo, also eases itself into a rapturous, tribal groove anchored by Bankhead’s repeating bass figure.
   “After Hours” is even more adventurous, but in an unassuming way. Wilkerson’s harmonica minimally makes notes as Ra creates a pillow-y cymbal sonic bed, which carries over as a backdrop to Bankhead’s simple but elegant piano. The same piano figure reappears in the aftermath of a free-for-all that consumes the first half of  “Take It To The Bridge, Ya’ll.” The piano has a calming effect on Williams’ soprano and Wilkerson’s tenor, another display of the beauty coexisting with the feral that marked Pharoah Sanders’ most celebrated work.
   More unexpected turns are in store for listeners of this album. The unrelenting, free jazz rage of “Right On It” is followed by the serenity of “Ancestors of the Pharoahs of Nabta Playa,” a collection of African-originated instruments with Bankhead on African marimba, Williams on kalimba, Wilkerson on an Australian didgeridoo and Ra on thumb piano. Williams is later heard jamming along on soprano sax.
   “A Sketch of Stravinsky” is the most solemn song of the batch, Wilkerson’s lonely clarinet barely existing with Ra’s tom-tom drums stalking behind. Bankhead slowly saws his bass with very low, dark notes; combined with Ra’s low rumble, a dark drone is formed and the song is shaped not with harmony but with the right mixture of timbres.
   Harrison Bankhead makes the case once again he’s not only a first-rate bassist but a creator of adventurous jazz who deserves much wider notice. Velvet Blue confirms his ability to lead records that can stand right alongside the stronger records of his better-known bosses. Fortaken: http://somethingelsereviews.com/
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Harrison Bankhead Quartet — Velvet Blue

 

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