Thad Aerts
HifiZine writer and reviewer

DONALD HARRISON This Is Jazz – Live at the Blue Note

Donald Harrison is a new name to me. On a recent birthday record shopping trip to Omaha, NE, I was introduced to Mr. Harrison via a listening station near the jazz section at the record store. Yes, it’s a sad sign of the times that I have to drive an hour to get to a standard record store. Once there, I was like a kid in a candy store, being reminded of how much I missed the experience, the ritual, of buying music in a record store. The instant gratification of it all. It was great. Anyway, I bought Mr. Harrison’s newest offering which is a live recording of a trio that also includes Ron Carter on bass and Billy Cobham. Apparently, this trio has a few other recordings together so the three of them are no strangers to playing together. I wish I could say, based on this recording, that I’m a newly made fan of Harrison’s. But I can’t, so I won’t. Harrison (who plays alto sax) can blow good enough, I guess. He’s just vague. No phrase, no line, no statement (macro or micro) really sticks out and his solos lack articulation. He doesn’t suck but he doesn’t shine. Good thing Carter is there to save the day. I don’t typically think of the bass player in a classic jazz setting (even a trio) as one to be in the foreground. Here, Carter is front and center, and despite being in the twilight of his career, displays some of the freshest ideas and presentation both as foundation and in his solos. The first two tracks on the record are written by him so I guess he had a good launching point, but he is solid throughout. I was settling into the ho-hum nature of Harrison’s lengthy solo on “Cut & Paste” (tr. 1) when suddenly Carter takes over with his solo. His sliding notes and shifting tempos caught my attention and immediately redeemed the recording – and the quality remains consistent through the recording. Don’t let my critique of Harrison sway you away from the disc – Carter’s playing is so good, it makes tracking this disc down totally worth it. Sonics are above average, though I wish Harrison’s saxophone would have been mic’d a little closer giving it a bit more definition and intimacy.

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