The Harris Group – Errands – self, 53:23 ***
(Daniela Bisenius – violin 2; Mason Cormie – acoustic & electric bass; Ric Harris – guitar; Tom Haugen – percussion; Micah Rutschman – vibraphone; Jack Scott – flute 4,8)
How is jazz defined? Duke Ellington posited that: “It’s in the ear of the listener. If a man has some hungry ears for what he considers jazz or for a pleasant noise that makes him want to swing, that’s jazz”. With such an open-ended definition then perhaps The Harris Group’s release Errands can readily fit that definition.
In this session, comprised entirely of original material written and arranged by guitarist Ric Harris, the group uses his created harmonic framework to explore its own aesthetic in a smooth and respectful way. While this music may fit the previously suggested definition, the categorization is somewhat more problematic. Smooth jazz is probably the least pejorative name that comes readily to mind.
The challenge with this characterization, is not in the quality of the musicianship, which is first-rate throughout, but the potential for musical homogeneity. If the names of the tracks were eliminated, it would probably be difficult to differentiate where one theme left off and the other began. However there are several tracks where the musical ideas are expressed more broadly.
On “Bougainvillea”, the group is joined by violinist Daniela Bisenius, which changes the harmonic underpinnings of the band and allows the bossa nova flavor come out giving each player a chance to find their own melodic manifestation. In addition to the interplay between Bisenius and guitarist Ric Harris, Micah Rutschman on vibes offers some stellar solo work. Another Latin-flavored tune is “Kings Highway” where the addition of flutist Jack Scott brings a different dimension to the proceedings. On the ethereal “Willoway Brook” Scott is again front and center as he dances over and around the theme coupled with Harris’ textured guitar lines. While no new musical ideas are presented on this album, there is a nice blending of shading and consistency.
TrackList: Errands; Bougainvillea; The Commons; Kings Highway; Sidewalks; Step Lightly; The Brass Monkey; Willoway Brook; The Pelikan