Saxophonist Donald Harrison has released two albums simultaneously, one of uptempo performances called The Burners and this mix of medium and slow tempo pieces called The Ballads. Harrison is accompanied by Christian Scott on trumpet, Eric Reed and Mulgrew Miller on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Billy Cobham on drums. “My Funny Valentine” is well done and patient, it is a saxophone and bass duet, reminiscent of the albums Houston Person and Ron Carter cut for Muse in the 1980’s. “Candlelight” is a probing trio performance, with subtle bass and drums. It seems like the starker the accompaniment, the better the performance, with Harrison reveling in the extra space available to improvise. “Summertime” expands to quintet with the addition of trumpet. “Cool Breeze” is a medium tempo quintet piece with Harrison getting the majority of the action and soloing well. “They Can't Take That Away From Me” is a spritely swinger that benefits from bright sounding piano accompaniment. This music has a mild and contemporary sound and could have stood a little more grit. The music stays fairly safe and rather timid, rather enjoyable but never more than that, and a touch bland at times. The Ballads - amazon.com
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John Butcher - Nigemizu (Uchimizu, 2015) ****½
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