|Joel Harrison 5|
Joel Harrison 5 — Spirit House (7 July 2015)
• In 1999 guitarist/composer/singer/arranger Joel Harrison relocated to New York City from the West Coast, where the multi–talented musician spent years leading various groups and ensembles, as well as freelancing as a much in–demand session player around the San Francisco area.
Born: July 27, 1957 in New York, NY
Location: Washington DC ~~ Brooklyn, NY
Album release: 7 July 2015
Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings
1. An Elephant In Igor’s Yard 6:47
2. Old Friends 6:02
3. Left Hook 6:16
4. Johnny Broken Wing 4:03
5. Some Thoughts On Kenny Kirkland 6:05
6. You Must Go Through A Winter 6:33
7. Sacred Love 6:52
8. Spirit House 8:05
9. Look At Where You Are 5:10
• Joel Harrison — guitar, voice
• Cuong Vu — trumpet
• Paul Hanson — bassoon
• Kermit Driscoll — bass
• Brian Blade — drums, voice
• Everett Bradley — voice
• Adam Kipple — Hammond B–3 organ
• Brian Blade Drums, Main Personnel, Vocals
• Everett Bradley Vocals
• Kermit Driscoll Bass, Main Personnel
• Christopher Drukker Graphic Design
• Liberty Ellman Mastering, Mixing
• Paul Hanson Bassoon, Main Personnel
• Joel Harrison Composer, Guitar, Liner Notes, Vocals
• Adam Klipple Hammond B3, Organ (Hammond)
• Paul Motian Composer
• Jason Quigley Inside Photo
• Cuong Vu Main Personnel, Trumpet
•• A broad–thinking musician with a prolific and extensive back catalog of releases — from duo and chamber to big band formats, from West African to North Indian collaborations — renowned Washington DC–born guitarist and composer Joel Harrison now turns his attention to a quintet recording featuring the intriguing front line of trumpet (Cuong Vu) and bassoon (Paul Hanson). Completed by NYC bassist Kermit Driscoll (bass) and the influential eminence of drummer Brian Blade, Harrison has created a genuine improvisers' record with a conceptual focus very much on the intuitive skills of these specific players. The richly–colored palette of Harrison's output is influenced by many guitar greats such as Bill Frisell, John Scofield and Jeff Beck, with solid roots in the American rock and country eras of Duane Allman and Danny Gatton. Add to this an unerring passion for cross-pollination of musical cultures and genres, plus a distinctively vocal guitar expressiveness, and it becomes clear why Harrison's evolving compositional sound worlds continue to engage.
By BLAINE FALLIS, Published: July 7, 2015 | SCORE: •••••
• Spirit House is a Joel Harrison original! Original compositions, ideas, instrumentations, and grooves. While jazz sometimes repeats itself (in style, instrumentation, or choice of songs etc.), Harrison creates completely new music worth listening to, "repeatedly."
• I say this because he wrote the music "specifically for this unique group of individuals," using electric guitar with bassoon (Paul Hanson), and the echoed voicings of trumpeter Cuong Vu. Add in veteran drummer Brian Blade and bassist Kermit Driscoll, and you have a spirit–band of professional brothers.
• For example, the first song "An Elephant in Igor's Yard" makes use of the bassoon doubling the bass line to get a lumbering but well defined elephant sound, and Cuong Vu answers by improvising as the trunk. But that description doesn't do the song justice, because throughout there is a feeling of incense or spirits floating over the band.
• Harrison says “I kept the composing fairly simple, wanting to lean on the intuitive skills of the players, and went for a feeling of openness, spirit and soul in the music.”
• When I first heard Spirit House my impression was one you might get sitting in a small listening room hearing the musicians delicately and almost within arms reach, as in a small circle.
• Harrison was using an East Asian miniature structure, a Spirit House, as a metaphor for the album.
• Some tunes groove more, such as "Left Hook," which has Driscoll on electric bass playing back and forth off of Blades, while Vu solos, and Harrison adds blankets of chordal sounds, although he is apt to add rock distortions and effects. But the tune transitions into a softer section, allowing Hanson to express himself sax–like, and it all resolves into a tight, written outro.
• Johnny Broken Wing features a lightly charged but sensitive guitar intro. Harrison is able to arrive at his style in this setup, and the tune picks up when the bass and drums bring in the beautiful organic sounding head played duet style, trumpet and bassoon. The musicians are really listening well to each other on tunes like this.
• "You Must Go Through a Winter" is a light structure of a tune leaving room for trio play between guitar upright bass and drums, before Vu enters on improv.
• The band toured together on the West Coast in 2013 and was able to play through these songs for several days before recording, allowing them to take a unique approach throughout the album's nine songs.
• "Sacred Love" perhaps best captures the mood of the whole project, which has gorgeous intro lines with Vu Hanson and Harrison, breaking into a Blade and Driscoll groove. While Blade has remained soft in approach for much of the album, he's able to drive a stake in the ground on this one, and the band goes for a sort of "group hug" (LOL) improvising all together.
BY PETER BACON on 16 JULY 2015 •
• Guitarist Joel Harrison‘s back catalogue is chock–a–block with adventures, both in repertoire and in band configuration. So, we’ve had albums inspired by ethnic folk song, country music, and interpretations of the work of that other Harrison guitarist, George; and Joel has written for big band, for string quartet, and played with classical sarodist Anupam Shobhakar along the way.
• This disc brings together some familiar names, not only from jazz in general but also from Joel’s previous bands: trumpeter Cuong Vu, bassoonist Paul Hanson, bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Brian Blade. That brass/wind combo means Harrison can use his more horn–like tonal effects to form a three–part front line and tunes like Old Friends and Left Hook are rich with harmony lines.
• And then there are the wide timbral ranges that players like Cuong Vu and Hanson can achieve, the former with squeezed, spitting notes, the latter with the subtlest of reverb. Harrison himself, of course, is a guitarist of many disguises, one minute searing bluesman, the next lyrical country picker.
• I’m not quite sure if the fact that track four’s melody leaps out at us in all its beauty is a reflection on Harrison’s lesser gifts as a songwriter — track four is the only non–original — or just an acknowledgement of the supreme timelessness of Paul Motian’s Johnny Broken Wing. Whatever, it’s a lovely interpretation, Blade as ever the lyrical equal of any chord player or melody instrumentalist.
• Some Thoughts On Kenny Kirkland not only boasts fulsome instrumental colours but a fine, restrained vocal from guest Everett Bradley. The title track is a gorgeous and gracious piece, the tune passing from instrument to instrument and then soaring in harmony. The closer, Look At Where You Are, might have a slightly laboured lyric but it gives Harrison and Blade not only a chance to play together but to sing in harmony too; it also features a sublime bit of electronically manipulated Cuong Vu sounding a little like a pedal steel.
• Among that vast and eclectic back catalogue Spirit House already sounds like it will have a prominent place as one of Harrison’s most cohesive packages so far. • http://thejazzbreakfast.com/
By Adrian Pallant • Posted on July 19, 2015
• “US guitarist Joel Harrison has forged resonant Americana, raw-edged rock and a rich jazz palette into densely textured originality. And with Brian Blade on drums and Paul Hanson’s bassoon in the front line, his quintet has the sonic resources to match.” — 4 Stars, The Financial Times
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|Joel Harrison 5|