Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Harris Group Choices 2012

Ask any ten artists or bands what the intent of their last record was and I can promise you a variation on the same answer simply stated ten different ways. The Harris Group makes no bones about their intention with Choices, a visceral and cerebral assault on the senses. Normally an artist can hit one with specific intent but to nail both and be able to do it with such incredible ease is simply a gift.

Variety is not an issue here with originals from guitarist Ric Harris along with classics from Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Billy Strayhorn but the harmonic presentation is an incredibly cool riff of inspiration reminiscent of a Steps Ahead vibe not heard for some time. Choices is a harmonic beast of texture and a fresh sonic color pallet that while some artists have attempted similar projects they simply fall way short in comparison.

The compelling back story with this release is that Choices is a somewhat autobiographical sonic portrait of the choices Harris had been forced to make in his daily life as a result of brain surgery thanks to a seizure disorder that began as a teenager. Doctors told Harris there were certain daily activities that those not afflicted take for granted and if Harris made the choice to stay away from simple tasks such as climbing a ladder or driving a car then his chances of a seizure could be greatly reduced. The recording of this release is an intimate look at the sonic realization that came to Harris via the previously mentioned Steps Ahead vibe. The realization if not focus of Choices is that solos are only part of a composition, not the focus.

"Dolphin Dance" was a tune Harris picked up from a Bill Evans record thanks to the simplicity of the melody while the harmonic complexity of Herbie Hancock began to push Harris further as he continued his musical journey. The side effect of memory loss has made the sonic road for Harris the road less traveled and certainly the one most difficult to navigate but their is a unique lyrical expression that does touch the head and heart as this stellar release unfolds.

The Harris Group is a formidable quartet. Chris Greene is as fine a soprano saxophone player working today. Mike Daly on acoustic bass, Micah Routschman on vibraphone and Tom Haugen on drums round out the quartet with a rhythm section that works with such incredible cohesion allowing Harris to guide the musical train down the tracks of their choosing for a phenomenal debut release. For Harris there will be certain comparisons made to Pat Martino and his health issues and those are understandable but as individuals we handle our own issues with our own unique set of choices that we are comfortable with. It is the vibe and the mental conditioning of how we put our choices into action that marks the character of the individual. No one has the market cornered on misery and Harris has taken this most unique challenge to create some incredible music coupled with inspiring choices.

5 Stars!

Tracks: Choices; Paula's Waltz; Dolphin Dance; Cape Hatteras; Across The Divide; Isfahan; Russell Square; Chances Are; Around The Block; Footprints.

Personnel: Mike Daly: acoustic bass; Chris Greene: soprano saxophone; Ric Harris: guitar; Tom Haugen: drums; Micah Rutschman: vibraphone.