Real Life Stories

Donald Harrison

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Real Life Stories Review

by Judith Schlesinger

Donald Harrison, alto alumnus of the Art Blakey and Eddie Palmieri bands, likes to blend funk, reggae, and swing rhythms into something he calls "nouveau swing" (releasing a CD by that name in 1997, on Impulse!). There is a fresh, contemporary feel to this Nagel Heyer debut, along with a nod to tradition in Harrison's tonal and harmonic homage to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Superb pianist Eric Reed plays on seven tracks, supplying the sly, cartoon-villain riff in the opener, and the film-noirish chording on the title track. He also wrote the contemplative "Strange Day," where Harrison builds a dynamic and forceful solo. "Oleo" and "I'm Barred" are in the capable hands of pianist Jonathan Lefcoski, who, with bassist Vicente Archer and drummer John Lamkin, comprise Harrison's crack working band. Lamkin wrote the bright bossa nova "Swept From the Sea," one of the CD's highlights; another is the classic "Oleo," where Harrison tosses "Bird"-like accents over the churning rhythm. "A Night in Tunisia" has a hint of reggae and some droll hesitation that recalls Dizzy's wit, and trumpeter Christian Scott, Harrison's 18-year-old nephew, provides a clear, understated turn that ends too soon. The band makes "Take Five" their own, resisting clich├ęs: Reed's solo is angular and spare, Harrison's strong and soaring. On "Keep the Faith," Harrison brews an enthusiastic mix of gospel, funk, and a touch of R&B that ends this session on a joyful note. Passionate, tasteful playing, original material, and great grooves make this a thoroughly enjoyable disc.

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