Apr 5, 2012
Joel Harrison is rapidly becoming on of jazz’s finest composers and arrangers. The guitarist has been steadily releasing albums of improvised music, while honing the crafts of composition and arrangement by merging the jazz sensibility with European art music formats. The results, most notably on his String Choir release celebrating the music of Paul Motian, can be moving and stimulating.
Harrison has assembled an unusual septet for his latest CD, Search. In addition to Harrison’s guitar, he has added the in-demand sax player Donny McCaslin, keyboard ace Gary Versace, and longtime collaborator Christian Howes (violin). The rhythm section is fleshed out with Dana Leong (cello), Stephan Crump (bass) and the stalwart Clarence Penn (drums). Mixing originals like the melodious “The Beauty of Failure” and the complex “A Magnificent Death” are cover tunes, most notably his salute to the early influence of Duane Allman on “Whipping Post”.
I recently spoke with Harrison about the Alternative Guitar Summit he helped organize in New York, his composing habits, and choices of cover songs (an entire album of George Harrison compositions).. Click here to listen to the conversation, including musical selections such as:
Joel Harrison 7 – “Whipping Post” from Search. I’ve always felt that at their core, the Allman Brothers Band is a jazz group. Harrison does nothing to dissuade me by grafting the famous galloping beat onto jazz sounds and treatment. The only question is – does anybody in the audience cry out “Whipping Post!” when he plays live?
Joel Harrison 7 – “The Beauty of Failure” from Search. I told Harrison how much I enjoyed this track, and he replied that it was one of his stronger melodies. I must agree.
Joel Harrison String Choir – “Misterioso”
from The Music of Paul Motian. This Monk tune was often
played by drummer Motian, who passed away last year. Here he and
fellow guitarist Liberty
Ellman are joined by a string quartet (Christian Howes, Chris
Howes, Sam Bardfeld (violin); Mat Maneri (viola); Dana Leong
(cello)) for a poignant reading of the song/
Joel Harrison – “Taxman” from Harrison on Harrison. Very much a child of late 60’s and early 70’s rock, Harrison put out this collection of songs written by the “Quiet Beatle” in collaboration with saxophonist David Liebman. Aided by veterans like drummer Clarence Penn and keyboardist Uri Caine, this version of the Beatles classic seemed appropriate for an April podcast.