Label: Imaginary Road Studios
Musicians: Rebecca Harrold – Piano, Will Ackerman – Froggy Bottom guitar (1),Tony Levin – electric and upright bass, Richard Gates – Bass (12), Jeff Haynes – Percussion, Tom Eaton – Percussion (3 & 8), Jill Haley – English Horn, Premik Tubbs – Lyricon, Soprano Sax, Charlie Bisharat –Violin, Eugene Friesen – Cello, Penni Layne – Vocals
Pianist, composer and vocalist Rebecca Harrold was raised in a musical household of seven children by a determined mother widowed early in Rebecca’s life, Rebecca excelled at piano, becoming proficient as an accompanist to choirs and solo singers and instrumentalists. As a vocalist, Rebecca preferred harmonizing to melody singing. This led naturally to creating the “new melodies,” that lie at the heart of improvised music. Rebecca channeled her feelings surrounding the early loss of her father into her composing, giving her music a unique emotional gravity. Harold’s latest CD, The River of Life, is a substantial, well composed collection of compositions that synthesizes elements of Brazil/African/European/New Age music styles with contemporary music and Jazz.
Harold’s piano playing is clear, agile, and smart, and always projects a quiet fluidity. As a composer, her work reflects that of a 'reader, philosopher and listener.' The compositions on The River of Life are developed organically over time, relying heavily on straight eight pulses and well developed motifs; Harold’s pen work is bold, yet contemplative with a strong commitment to excellence in small group orchestrations.
For Harold, The River of Life is a career milestone; Harold served as a pianist for the Boston Ballet for 13 years, the last four were as lead pianist for its newest studio in Marblehead, MA. It was during this period that much of the material on her premiere CD, The River of Life, was refined. Many in her company inquired about her music inspiring her to record her original compositions. Colleagues encouraged Rebecca to contact Will Ackerman of the famed Windham Hill label for direction. Impressed by what he heard, Ackerman took on production duties, stating the sound she achieved on the piano “was incredible,” thus inviting her to let the music out!
The opening track, “Photograph” sets the mood for the project, immediately establishing a pastel tone color from which Harold’s flowing pulse on the piano provides the foundation for violinist Charlie Bisharat to beautifully phrase the melodic statements. The group creates a contemplative excitement with a flowing naturalness of sound and well thought-out orchestration, symbiotic instrumental relationships help build this thoughtful musical statement; Penni Layne vocalizations give this selection a light air about it that promotes relaxation.
Equally, it is as a composer/arranger that Harold excels, with keen awareness, and depth of ideas in developing simple musical motifs with multi-instrumental proficiency with exquisitely painted musical colors to tell her stories. The subtle counterpoint of “G.O.D.” is a fine example of Harrold’s understated, but effective use of colors with Eugene Friesen’s cello and Premik Tubbs soprano sax interweaving an exhilarating, relaxed musical conversation. Harrold demonstrates eclectic musical tastes and a deep grasp of classical music, which is evident in her flowing piano playing. In “Gotta Never Give Up,” vocalist Penni Layne and percussionist Tom Eaton develop the musical statement with Harold in a call and response arrangement that is somber, sensitive, vulnerable, but beautiful in a sapphire color.
Harrold is proof positive that contemplative piano jazz, underpinned with a New Age touch is just the right mix in today’s evolving jazz palette.
H. Allen Williams
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