Jerome Harris

Rendezvous

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For his fourth recording as a leader, Harris uses the Taylor AB-1 acoustic bass guitar, unique for its tone -- it's softer than that of an acoustic bass -- and the absence of twang from an electric bass guitar. Harris wields it beautifully on these seven compositions, six are his originals. Longtime combo mate Marty Ehrlich is here exclusively on alto sax, Steve Nelson continues to establish his single-minded concept on vibes, while trombonist Art Baron and drummer Billy Drummond round out this most extraordinary band. The music is solidly based in the modern mainstream, while the depth, passion, and high musicianship present should be clear and evident. Harris' jazz has a wonderful melodicism that is further heightened by Ehrlich's singing tone, which has only a trace of tartness or sarcasm. The band collectively soars on the first two easy swinging numbers "Decision Point" and "Sway Low," the 11-plus-minute former with Nelson's pulsing vibes supporting Ehrlich and Baron's swooping melody lines, the latter with a tick-tock rhythm from Drummond shifting meters of 3 & 4 and inspiring another finely hued melody. "Cool Pursuit" also has the signature qualities Harris writes, this time the vibes run contrary lines to the unison horns, then all are juxtaposed at length. Hotter on "Followthrough," Drummond responds to the horns, then some chatty counterpoint occurs. There is some attentive listening going on between the participants. "Hand by Hand" has a caravan-like feel in 6/4 introduced by Harris, where you more readily hear the bass guitar's soul, as he uses a snippet of a melody leading into countermelodies, patient rhythmic building blocks, and Nelson's shimmering vibes. The very slow "Only Then" is both evocative and invocative, while Duke Ellington's "The Mooch" is fueled by jungle rhythms that lead into darker tones, Baron's plunged trombone plays at 180 degrees to Ehrlich's melody and some stop-start rhythm section antics, a truly faithful rendering. If this is your first exposure to Harris's music, pick up his other recordings as well. They all showcase one of the more original composers and performers in the music today who deserves much wider recognition.

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