Craig Harris / Craig Harris & Tailgater's Tales

Blackout in the Square Root of Soul

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An ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful venture by Harris, several elements of this album do not stand the test of time very well. In particular, Clyde Criner's synthesizer sounds alternately loopy and saccharine and Jean-Paul Bourelly's guitar strays too close to fusion to fit comfortably in Harris' framework. The synth mars an otherwise lovely performance of "Love Joy," a standard in Harris' repertoire and a terrific tune, rousingly played by the rest of the band. Other pieces suffer from a shaky conception and unclear playing, however, striving for the leader's apparent balancing act between soulful post-bop, free playing, and world music influences. With regard to the latter, Harris feels compelled to pull out the didjeridoo at least once per record and, by this time, the rewards were getting pretty thin. His own playing is typically gruff and fine and the record includes a nice little solo feature, "Blues Dues." Then-emerging clarinetist Don Byron also gets to strut some stuff, but the rest of the band seems uninspired. At this point in his career, Harris' best and most exciting work was still as a featured sideman in the great midsize ensembles of Henry Threadgill and David Murray.

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