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December 2005

Donald Harrison, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham
New York Cool: Live at the Blue Note
Half Note Records

This trio struck a nice accord three years ago on Donald Harrison's CD Heroes (Nagel-Hayer, 2004), and it has since deepened. They excel at giving jazz warhorses tasteful makeovers; such is the case with "Body and Soul," where drummer Billy Cobham and bassist Ron Carter ignite a tight, bossa nova groove underneath Harrison's flinty melodicism, and "I'll Remember April," which shimmies between swing and a samba.

More engaging, however, are Harrison's originals. His "Harrisburg Address" hints at Ornette Coleman--the melody alternates between corkscrew phrases and bluesy swagger--and "Blues for Happy People" aims straight at the gut as the alto saxophonist powers his testifying sermon over Cobham and Carter's slow grind. Carter also contributes an engaging tune with "Third Plane," a capricious midtempo excursion noted by a halting melody, deftly animated by Harrison's wailing yet lissome phrasing and propelled by Cobham's crackling snare and Carter's sturdy walking bass line. With all egos in check, these three giants bring their A game to the stage and deliver a performance that's as casual as it compelling.

Originally published in December 2005
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