Skylines reviewed by Words About Music
Australian-in-New-York, tenor saxophonist and composer Evan Harris has given us a day in the life of the Big Apple with his debut album, Skylines.
Whether intended or not, these ten tracks seem all of a piece – short stories of NYC tied together by the three ‘Skyline’ tunes.
‘Skyline at Sunrise’ is vividly evocative as tone poetry, painting the sun rising over the jagged line of the city’s skyscrapers; the improvisations arc up and up until they hit a unison note at the top of the rise. The sun is out.
‘Skyline at Midday’ is a hard-swinging hustle, all elbows and shove, like midtown at noon. The city surges in the rhythm. Altoist Will Vinson‘s Parkeresque solo is wonderfully nimble, threading in and out of the groove. The other Australian-in-New-York, the ubiquitous Sean Wayland plays Bud Powell to Vinson’s Yardbird with sparkling invention. Always a joy to hear Mr Wayland speak.
Vinson and Wayland are perfectly matched for Harris’s session, as are the rhythm section of Des White on bass and drummer Jochen Rueckert; perfectly matched to each other and perfectly matched to the music. Harris’s smart tunes and arrangements range from hard-bop (‘Equilibrium’), through sinewy percussion grooves such as ‘Inertia’, across to bop-bossa (‘Spring Song’ – which has some exquisite writing for unison tenor and alto; always a lovely pairing) and the band he has selected breathe life and great beauty into them all.
‘Resignation”s spry feel belies the title with some sharp horn writing. Harris’s solo here is particularly inspired, his lines working against each other and switching back and forth within their own logic. His playing seems to inspire Vinson to great things – his solo here is a highlight – full of invention and seeking and finding, all with the joy that is particularly at the heart of the alto’s tone.
The final ‘Skyline’ piece, ‘Skyline at Sunset’ evokes the city-that-never-sleeps going to sleep, with Wayland’s piano all stardust and skyscraper lights and the horns painting in indigo and deep mauves. Harris’ writing surprises in its breadth. Whether impressionistic, or ballad-gentle, or bop-tight, he has complete control over the shape and intent of these pieces.
To say Skylines is an impressive debut – whilst being true – can also sound patronising, suggesting Harris has a way to go. Don’t we all. But he is leaps ahead already and his promise is as exciting and unpredictable as the city he celebrates on Skylines.
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