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08/09/11

Harrison Bankhead Sextet
Morning Sun/Harvest Moon
Engine

In his Chicago club, the Velvet Lounge, “Baba” (father) Fred Anderson made it a goal to keep the music so close to his heart going. Bassist Harrison Bankhead is one of the musicians who both frequently played at the Velvet and in Anderson’s groups. With a Chicago-based sextet of musicians, Bankhead has made it his goal to honor Anderson’s inspiration in an album called Morning Sun/Harvest Moon. Bankhead’s sextet features Ed Wilkerson on reeds and didgeridoo; Mars Williams on reeds, autoharp and wooden flute; James Sanders on violin; Avreeayl Ra on percussion and wooden flute; and Ernie Adams on percussion.

Adept at a range of music, Bankhead leaves no question about his capacity for translating his feelings into sound. His music does not extend beyond the scope of his reverence for that which he creates or plays, or for his predecessors and colleagues. The whole album has a heavily rhythmic pattern. It is easy for the group to vary its textures from the quiet to raucous; the melodic to abstract and to produce what is otherworldly both at the start and the finish…particularly in “Flying Through Your Dreams,” when the didgeridoo is a featured instrument, and “A Sketch of Leroy Jenkins,” where the violin penetrates the soundscape.

Terrifically captivating though is the coupling of the bass and bongos throughout the album. The two instruments are joined by the violin, in “Chicago Senorita,” which floats like a human voice over the force of the rhythm. Strangely, the same theme leaks into “East Village” with an interlude of cacophony between the two works. This strong rhythmic structure is met by wailing saxes in “Over Under Inside Out,” the opening looseness of “22nd Street Hustle” and hauntingly overlaid by the predominant instrumentation in “Flying Through Your Dreams.” “22nd Street Hustle” memorializes Fred Anderson.

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