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Wendell Harrison: Urban Expressions

Detroit clarinetist/saxophonist Wendell Harrison set out to reach a wider audience with Urban Expressions (WenHa), and perhaps this set of electro-pop interspersed with his jazz improvisations will do it for him but it is not likely to appeal to the hardcore jazz audience. Programmed keyboard and drums, distant background vocals and an overall smooth jazz/pop format suggest that the record is more likely to be used as background music than something to be seriously listened to. Even Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” receives that kind of treatment, which seems much more appropriately applied to, for example, Stevie Wonder’s “Lately” and the Isley Brothers’ “Living for the Love of You.” For all that, the music is polished and well executed, and Harrison’s improvised solos on clarinet and tenor remind the listener of his well-earned reputation as a fine straightahead jazzman.

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