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Harold Danko: Fantasy Exit

Harold Danko has much to offer on Fantasy Exit (Steeple-Chase) considering his long recording career, his writing and arranging, his instructional books and videos and, since 1998, his perspective on the New York scene from his perch on the faculty of the Eastman College of Music. It all shows on his latest album, recorded in March 2002. His approach to bop is a distillation of academe and the Apple: he swings so intelligently, blending the intellectual with the earthy. His take on Randy Weston’s “Hi Fly” is quite original, eschewing the usual staccato march for a gentler, more melodic, straightahead approach, at the same time allowing ample solo space for bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jeff Hirshfield. Jaki Byard’s angular “Mrs. Parker of K.C.” is given such a hard bop workout it tends to be void of a tonal center. The title tune is so well integrated, Danko’s “comping” often provides counterpoint to Formanek. Danko’s search for tunes with challenging changes leads to Gerry Mulligan’s “Rocker,” with appropriately rocking licks by Hirshfeld. Danko’s own “Smoke House,” allegedly in 5/4, is so rhythmically detached, it’s difficult to find the “one.” Harmonically there are oblique hints of “What is This Thing Called Love?”-very oblique.

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