Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Further Adventures of the Majestic Clarinet

The 7th recording by clarinetist, arranger, and composer Darryl Harper hearkens back to his excellent 2009 HiPNOTIC release "Stories in Real Time", especially in how the leader blends his different ensembles into the mix.  "The Need's Got To Be So Deep" contains 19 tracks played by Harper and various combination of the 19 musicians he gathered for the project. Spread over 2 CDs and 96 minutes,  Harper works in duo settings with pianist Helen Sung and guitarist Freddie Bryant, in a trio and several quartet settings with his long-time rhythm section of Harry "Butch" Reed (drums) and Matthew Parrish (bass) plus pianist Lefteris Korderis, and with his Clarinet Quartet of Alex Spiegelman, Kenny Pexton, and Nicholas Lewis. There is 1 track with a Flute Trio (Jimmy Guiffre's "The Side Pipers")  and 3 with a Woodwind Quartet (performing a work commissioned from Andy Jaffe.)  

What keeps this blend of various ensembles and musical ideas together is the exceptional musicianship and direction of Harper.  Currently on the faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University, the Philadelphia, PA-native has worked onstage with pianist Orrin Evans, Tim Warfield, Uri Caine and Roscoe Mitchell and spent 2 years with violinist Regina Carter who appears here on the  classically inspired 2-part "Dances For Outcasts" with I-Jen Fang (marimba).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Both CDs open with compositions by pianist Xavier Davis, with the rocking title track based on a line from a poem by Yusuf Komunyakaa.  Vocalist Marianne Solivan digs deeply into the poet's words, supported by the leader with Korderis, Reed and Parrish. That group (minus Ms. Solivan) also shines on the 4-part "Jazz Clarinet Quartet" composed by Greg Bullen.  Each section - "Variations", "Ballad", "Interlude", and "Spin" - stands out with distinct melodies yet is tied together by its overall sonic quality.

The longest single cut on the CD, "Anthem For Unity", is a lovely duet for Harper and composer/acoustic guitarist Freddie Bryant. The music has a pleasing blend of Brazilian and North American folk music influence plus a touch of the melodic style of Ralph Towner.

The 4 duets with Ms. Sung are distinguished by their strong melodic content, exciting interactions and emotional strength. The pianist's "Prelude and Fugue-Like" is a multi-sectioned tour-de-force while Carla Bley's "Postures" (first recorded in 1961 by Jimmy Giuffre) blends jazz, blues, ragtime and "free" tempi. "Playtime" is just that, a playful musical romp composed by Ayn Inserto for pianist Korderis and  Harper, who performed the piece at the New England Conservatory (where Harper did his Doctoral studies.)

The 3-part "Woodwind Quintet", played by Harper, Michael Rabinowitz (bassoon), John Clark (French horn), the composer's sister Marina (oboe) and daughter Ceora (flute), brings the program to close with a flourish.  Composer Jaffe, who's known for his work as a jazz composer and leader of large ensembles, gives the musicians much to work with.  Part 1, "Bach's Corral", opens on a serious but soon moves into playful territory.  The short second Movement, "Panderinho", is a sweet melody for flute partnered with the oboe and, occasionally, the bassoon with the French horn and clarinet playing rhythm.  The piece hustles to its close, the composer's compositional tongue firmly in his musical teeth.  The longest movement, "Penthex", has a more formal feel but also turns towards jazz with its closing section where each one one of the instruments steps out for a short solo.

"The Need's Got To Be So Deep" says it all for those of us who cannot get enough jazz, cannot hear enough grooves or woody clarinets or singers moaning, saxophones keening or bassists throbbing beneath the ensemble (here's a link to Mr. Komunyakaa's stunning poem that gave Xavier Davis the title for his composition and Harper the title of his album.) Darryl Harper continues to grow in so many different facets of his career, giving the avid listener much to chew on with his latest recording.  This is a gem - pay attention and you'll be rewarded many times over.  For more information, go to www.darrylharperjazz.com.  

No comments:

Post a Comment