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Joel Harrison: Harbor

The foremost of Harbor’s many musical tributaries are Frank Zappa and Robert Fripp: the smarter, jazzier purveyors of ’70s art-rock. (Not surprising, given composer/guitarist Joel Harrison’s past explorations of music by “prog” forefathers Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison.) But where so much art-rock sank under its own bombastic weight, the density of Harbor is delicate and stunning. Harrison’s compositions are modal labyrinths that unfold outward, some into sinister places (“End Time”), others into dreamlike pathos (“Harbor”). The performers, stalwarts from the U.S. and France-Harbor was jointly commissioned by the French Cultural Alliance and Chamber Music America-build their parts around Harrison and Nguyên Lê’s gorgeous, rockish electric guitar lines, which intertwine and complement when not avoiding each other entirely. Altoist David Binney often unisons with the guitars on the heads; in the solos (mostly taken by Binney and Harrison), it’s Binney again who supplies the jazz element, with cool lyricism and long, Coltrane-inspired runs.

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