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Bankhead, Harrison Quartet – “Velvet Blue” – [Engine Studios]

Thurston Hunger   3/14/2014   CD, Jazz

Not enough releases led by venerated bassist supreme Harrison
Bankhead. He of the deep-dish, Chicago upright. Along for the
ride, killer Mars Williams not only armed with his saxes but
kalimba (c’mon you KNOW any jazz track with “Ancestors” in the
title is going right for that sweet spot that spawned psych/jazz
and your eldest child!). Avreeayl Ra is onboard too, he who rode
the Arkestra with Sun starting back in 1984. 67 years and no
slow down, starting in the fast lane on the “Bridge” ya’ll! Best
believe “Rhythm of the Earth” is going to give the drummer more
than some. Those two pieces cover a lot of territory. That is
the foremost striking aspect of these songs, how they shift over
time, including instrument evolution. Aiding that, Ed Wilkerson
serves as the quartet’s utility player. His ramshackle harmonica
shines to start “After Hours,” a wonderfully weird exploring
number at the outset, that moves into a mellow piano-anchored
(Bankhead I assume) contemplative zone. Wilkerson scores with
the digeridoo (guess which track!) “Right On It” is strong
enough for a Luttenbacher, Williams and Wilkerson are flying
fast. Great sounds abound, captured like a live set by label
leader Steven Walcott. Mixing moments of tasty earth jazz and
more cosmopolitan cooking too. The last track stirs a
primordial soup, and Bankhead plays on off into a fade, more
to devour later surely.

-Thurston Hunger

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