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Stan Harrison: The Optimist

Stan Harrison

Radiohead, They Might Be Giants, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Serge Gainsbourg and Talking Heads: All have called on saxophonist Stan Harrison, a devilishly inventive tenor who stood among Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes for a few years and was a founding member of the Borneo Horns. Harrison’s second solo album takes its musical cues from its title with its sunny countenance-especially with its world-music leanings. But, at the same time, beefy playing and counterintuitive musical asides belie the heavenlike atmosphere. Not what you might expect. That being said, thick and contemporary beats on tracks such as “On a Never Ending Day” and “Nothing Less Than You” anchor the music in the present and suggest Harrison is most happy lodged somewhere in between jazz and hard-edged pop.

Harrison invited several singers into the mix, with excellent results. Phoebe Snow casts a spell on “Would I Ever Know?,” a statement of love lost suggesting the “Poetry Man” might’ve left the scene. British singer Najma Akhtar switches between English and Urdu on the title track, but it’s Earth, Wind and Fire’s Philip Bailey who steals the show with “What About Peace of Mind?” His wordless, falsetto vocals soar into space in Metheny-esque fashion in a song that effectively blends bossa, chill, R&B and jazz into something like magic.

Originally Published