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Wendell Harrison : It’s About Damn Time

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Listen to the funked-up take on Clifford Brown’s “Dahoud,” or the hip-hop- and soul-flavored “Love Juice,” and one thing becomes clear: This set showcases reedist Wendell Harrison’s non-elitist aesthetics. He’s been criticized for this eclecticism, and occasionally his juxtapositions can sound forced. (“Love Juice,” with its raw, sexual lyrical content over a background that skews quiet storm, is a main offender.) For the most part, though, the musical and emotional integrity here makes this journey more exhilarating than jarring.

Damon Warmack’s funk basslines set an appropriately streetsy mood for Harrison, who borrows a few JBs-like licks along the way to emphasize the point. His tenor saxophone tone is clean and often mellow but he coarsens it when appropriate, and his percussive phrasing accentuates toughness and grit, especially on funkified workouts like “Urban Expressions.” Guitarist Vaughn Klugh’s slag-metal solos sometimes approach rocked-out overkill, but his Johnny Heartsman-like moans and soul chording provide atmospheric, full-bodied support for his compatriots’ frontline work.

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