Darryl Harper's multi-cultural feast moves past the idiosyncratic stereotype of expectations in favor of a harmonic exploratory.
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
While the history of improvisational music continues to push buttons and raise the ire of those that are seemingly not willing to accept the historical implications of music that has changed the world and culture of the African-American community, Darryl Harper moves to the beat of his own drummer. This two disc set contains works commissioned for both small and large ensembles and celebrates the contributions of such artists as Carla Bley and Yusef Lateef. Guest artists include rising star Helen Sung, violin great Regina Carter and up and coming vocalist Marianne Solivan among others.
At first listen there is an organic deconstruction of certain compositions that would have the arbitrary if not archaic label of "chamber jazz" come to mind. The use of the clarinet as the primary instrument in an ensemble collective such is this somewhat unique. The deconstructed and reharmed arrangements move from jazz to classical to a more soulful and soul filled gospel bent. Guitarist Freddie Bryant and pianist Helen Sung are two of the brightest spots in what may be the most original recording to be released during 2014. To analyze specific selections of this rather ambitious recording would be to take away from the sum total of all the vital parts that make this work sing.
There is an accessible complexity to this work. Harper may not be a household name yet however this is the new breed of American composer that gives new meaning to the word virtuoso.