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October 1997

Joel Harrison Octet
Range of Motion
Koch International

World music in the context of large jazz ensembles seldom sounds as engrossing, jubilant, and emotional, without the weighty notions of self-importance, as the impressive new recording from guitarist/composer Joel Harrison. Meshing disparate elements like jazz, R&B, Afro-Cuban, and fusion, Range of Motion bursts with infectious rhythms that are forcefully propelled by drummer Eliot Kavee and percussionists Julian Gerstin and Russ Gold, while an arresting horn foil of bass clarinet, saxophones, brass, and oboe engage in playful yet knotty conversations. Together they realize Harrison's compositions with searing solos, colorful textures, and noteworthy group empathy.

As a player, Harrison often gets lost in the mix, but his fluid playing is well highlighted in the serene "Stones Of The Sky," which also features a blues-informed solo from bassoon player Paul Hanson and the improvised duet with oboe player Paul McCandless on "Golem," which unites Jewish passages with funky odd-metered underpinnings. The ensemble is at it's funkiest on the edgy "Counterpunch," which finds Harrison and ensemble boasting angular funk in the tradition of early M-BASE.

Music for the jazz listener who's globally informed, Range of Motion is a worthy listen.

Originally published in October 1997
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