Friday, July 08, 2011

Harrison Bankhead Sextet - Morning Sun Harvest Moon (Engine Records, 2011)

Long a mainstay on the Chicago jazz scene as a sought after sideman, bassist Harrison Bankhead assumes the leadership role on this album which includes Ed Wilkerson on tenor saxophone and clarinets, Mars Williams on saxophones, James Sanders on violin and Avreeayl Ra and Ernie Adams on percussion. The music has a wide ranging experimental flow to it, recalling the likes of Chicago greats such as Fred Anderson and Roscoe Mitchell. The album begins in a slow and specious fashion with "Morning Sun/Harvest Moon" with a vaguely Native-American sounding flute performance joined by bass, violin and lightly blown saxophones. Bankhead's thick and heady bass is linked by strong percussion on "Chicago Senorita" building to an up-tempo mix of instruments. The music here is deeply rhythmic, with the two percussionists flexing their muscles. "East Village" blasts off with pyrotechnic improvisation, before the band throttles back to a slower more melodic dynamic, becoming jaunty and joyful. Thick, loping bass with ripe saxophone introduce "Over Under Inside Out" building to a wild section of free improvisation before switching gears and shifting to an abstract section anchored by violin. "Red Is The Color In Jean-Michel Basquat's Silk Blue" slyly alludes to a famous Charles Mingus composition, and like that great man they cover a lot of ground in this performance. Wilkerson and Williams open with a light and nimble saxophone duet, before building to a fast and frenetic section with saxophones and violin roiling like a late sixties Albert Ayler performance. This epic is the dynamic center of the album, vividly demonstrating the bands openness and willingness to experiment. Wild free improv returns on "22nd Street Hustle (In Memory Of Fred Anderson)" drawing from a deep well of musical free expression. "Flying Through Your Dreams" is spacious, very open and abstract with a moaning deep instrument of unusual sound. Bankhead builds in a lengthy bass solo before drums, percussion and violin enter creating an ominous and memorable performance. The album concludes with the short "A Sketch Of Leroy Jenkins" a nice improvisation justly led by Sanders' violin. This was an excellent album through and through, showing a group and a leader that have really though through thir musical statement, but also leave plenty of space for the unpredictable nature of improvisation. Classy, exciting music played with vigor. Morning Sun Harvest Moon -

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