Lafayette Harris, Jr. – Bend To The Light – Airmen AR010 66:20 ***:
(Lafayette Harris, Jr. – piano; Lonnie Plaxico – bass; Willie Jones III – drums)
The competition is so brutal in the jazz music business, that some clever and well-deserving musicians, are resorting to innovative crowd-funding sources such as Kickstarter, in order to raise the necessary funds to record their efforts. Such is the case with Lafayette Harris, Jr., for his release Bend To The Light.
In this straight-ahead session of predominantly original compositions interspersed with some covers, Harris, Jr., is ably and sympathetically supported by bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Willie Jones III. With a robust unimpeded style, Harris, Jr. gives an interesting account of his solid bona fides, starting with the title track “Bend To The Light”. Written for his two sons, the band delves into the arrangement with style and a probing feeling, with each member making their own interpretative contribution. “Take You Out” was a 2001 R&B hit written and performed by Luther Vandross. Here Harris, Jr. gets into a funky groove that works well with the underlying intention of the tune.
“We In The House” was previously recorded by Harris,Jr. on his solo CD Lafayette Is Here. In this iteration, the arrangement appears to be informed by Ahmad Jamal’s take on Poinciana with a repetitive drum beat that flows throughout the composition as Harris, Jr. offers his improvisation that connects with the rhythm.There is a shortened version also offered as the final track, and it is a decidedly more interesting take. Herbie Nichols, was an adventurous jazz pianist, who gained more recognition after his passing in 1963, than when he was alive. His composition “12 Bars” is given a sympathetic reading by the trio with all the unusual harmonic structure associated with the composition.
In his nod to the Great American Songbook, Harris, Jr. shows he knows his way around the genre with his renditions of “Old Devil Moon” and “Tenderly”. The former swings along nicely with the pianist showing that he has a fresh approach to this well-known number. Bassist Plaxico demonstrates his grounded big tone in a tasty solo. On the latter number, Harris,Jr. is in an empathetic frame of mind, as he build the number in its traditional ballad form, again segueing to bassist Plaxico for a subtly lyrical solo. The final original composition is entitled “Geneva” and was written by Harris, Jr. for his mother. In an up-tempo vein, the pianist shows he is a skilful player with an attentive but straight-forward style.
TrackList: Bend To The Light; Take You Out; We In The House; 12 Bars; Achern; Japanese Love Poem; Old Devil Moon; Blues On The Edge; Tenderly; Geneva; Bend To The Light – vocal version; We In The House – short version