Roman Sun

John Harrison III

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Roman Sun Review

by Dave Nathan

John Harrison belongs to that school of pianists who play with a flourish without becoming florid, similar to Ahmad Jamal with roots in the lyricism of Bill Evans. Harrison uses the whole; he employs runs and arpeggios to extend the range of the instrument. He applies his technique to a variety of tunes represented by the play list. But he doesn't always follow the script, and what one hears coming out of the group is often not what one expects to hear from a piano trio. "Velas" doesn't have the pronounced Brazilian flavor indigenous to an Ivan Lins/Vitor Martins composition. "Ballad of the Sad Young Men" is not often heard as an instrumental, being generally reserved for the vocal fraternity, such as Kurt Elling or Mark Murphy. Harrison's view of the tune changes its complexion completely, using lighter, waltzing figures. He spends most of the time on the high right-hand side of the piano on "Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers" -- there has got to be a story associated with this title -- and he manages to change pace effortlessly throughout the piece, creating an engaging musical tableau. He expresses his own ideas about Thelonious Monk on "Rhythm-A-Ning," not always following standard convention in dealing with the music of this master. Alan Hall's drums make a point on this cut; Hall is Harrison's soulmate throughout the entire session, avoiding a steady, predicable beat. Rather, he tries to complement Harrison's seemingly effortless approach with thrusting ripostes, keeping the group on its collective toes. This contrast adds a distinctive grain to the music. Peter Kontrimas' bass makes some telling appearances, including a thoughtful solo on "You Won't Forget Me." This album is a welcome, pleasant digression from the usual byways taken by piano trios. Recommended.

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