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Lafayette Harris Jr.: In the Middle of the Night

Lafayette Harris Jr.

There’s a lot to like on Lafayette Harris Jr.’s svelte new CD: contemporary jazz music in the truest sense. Jazz is the overwhelming theme, but the delivery is sophisticated and catchy, with pop and R&B sensibilities. Harris, a native of Baltimore who now lives and performs regularly in New York City, packs more punch on his 11 songs that you might find on a smoother effort while at the same time wrapping it all up in accessible melodies and rhythms.

Only on Nat Adderley’s “The Work Song” does Harris show off on the 88s. There’s no denying his playing is impressive, made even more so because it’s displayed so infrequently. Instead, Harris has made a band record where he handed over the bulk of the playing, for example, to trumpeter Terell Stafford on the neo-soulish “Saturday” and to saxophonist Donald Harrison on the samba rhythms of “Carmella.” Balancing those instrumental efforts are the male vocal lead of Mike Hammond on the title track and the breathy female chops of Alyson Williams on “The Milky Way.” Then Harris comes back with the funk-heavy “Athens” and the sweet pop of “Honeylike.” The latter, with its hip-hop synth bursts and tight groove, is as tasty as the best Fourplay.

Originally Published