Donald Harrison

The Power of Cool

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Donald Harrison has had several musical identities in his career. Best known as a post-bop altoist who played early on with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, a quintet that he co-led with Terence Blanchard, and his own jazz groups, Harrison has also been interested in hip-hop, smooth jazz, rap, and funk. His sound on alto has always been original and he has an open-minded approach to music. However, although The Power of Cool has been called "a smooth classic," in reality this CTI extravaganza has Harrison mostly cast as a bit player despite the fact that he is supposedly the leader. Recorded during producer Creed Taylor's comeback years when he attempted to bring the revived CTI label back to the former glories it had reached in the 1970s (that dream did not last long), Harrison is mostly confined to moderately soulful melody statements. Vocalists dominate half of the selections, the arrangements and compositions are commercial and quite forgettable, and Harrison sounds like an anonymous studio player, even on a simplification of Lee Morgan's "Ceora." The presence of trumpeter Wallace Roney and guitarist Larry Coryell only helps a little, while Jimi Hendrix's posthumous appearance on "The Wind Cries Mary" seems a bit exploitative. At no time do these performances rise above the level of pleasant background music, but fortunately Donald Harrison has recorded many much more rewarding CDs in his career.

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