Craig Harris

Shelter

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In Shelter, trombonist Craig Harris attempts a lengthy programmatic composition as the record's set piece, and the results are mixed. "Shelter Suite" is intended as an evocation of the lives of New York's homeless but, aside from the overtly referential sung portions, the music is sometimes a bit messy, other times lugubrious. It's the sort of work that Harris' former employer Henry Threadgill can pull off with grace but that stultifies in lesser hands. The opening, "Africans Unite," has a bouncy and catchy theme but again, the lyrics have an "up with people" cachet that's more than a bit queasy. However, the basic quintet assembled is a good one, including the young Don Byron in one of the first bands that brought his talents to light. "Cootie" is a jumpy, rough-hewn number that features him nicely, as well as showcasing the leader's unmistakable growl. The closing "Sound Sketches" has a sinuous, slightly threatening sounding groove that drummer Pheeroan akLaff clearly takes delight in, and this piece actually does broach the sort of territory in which Threadgill and David Murray often dwelt. An uneven set, but the highlights and generally fine level of playing make Shelter worth a listen, depending on one's tolerance for mawkishness.

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