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04/29/13

Kevin Harris Project
Museum Vol. 1
Kevin Harris

There’s no suggestion in pianist Kevin Harris’ liners that Museum Vol. 1 is in any way an exercise in minimalism. The soulful postbop record is crowded with repetition, however, certainly in Harris’ otherwise-admirable originals. Vamps, riffs, phrases and figures are recycled endlessly. That’s not always a bad thing, but with seven of the album’s eight tunes clocking in at over seven minutes, the repeats start to seem like mere filler.

For example, “The Dinosaur Suite” (co-written with Steve Langone, one of the album’s two drummers, though it’s Richie Barshay who plays on it) centers on a left-hand Harris vamp; the leader’s right hand improvises first, then comes Jason Palmer’s stunning trumpet, but it’s the vamp that dominates—for over two minutes. On “Pinched Nerve,” saxophonist Rick DiMuzio seems to end his solo with a written coda … then plays that coda four more times. Harris is the worst offender, exhausting a fine tune (“BBBB”) with a solo that continually folds back on itself. (The three covers fare better, particularly bassist Kendall Eddy’s feature on “You Are My Sunshine.” But Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”—which has a wonderfully affective vocal by Harris—begins and ends with a dark piano figure that apparently runs on a loop.)

And yet “Bluegrass” has the same (if not greater) tendency toward repetition, and it’s heavenly. An autumnal, piano-trio gospel tune (the title refers to Harris’ Kentucky roots), it mostly consists of the same two four-bar lines recapitulated. Perhaps because it’s the shortest tune (under five minutes), or perhaps because those four bars are well crafted enough to stand on their own, the album’s albatross is here its savior.

Originally published in April 2013
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