Joel Harrison - guitar, voice
Cuong Vu - trumpet
Paul Hanson - bassoon
Kermit Driscoll - bass
Brian Blade - drums, voice
Recorded at Fantasy Sound, Berkeley, CA, April 2013
Mixed and mastered by Liberty Ellman, NYC
Produced by Joel Harrison
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
released July 15, 2015
ABOUT THE ALBUM
A broad-thinking musician with a prolific and extensive back catalog of releases – from duo and chamber to big band formats, from West African to North Indian collaborations – renowned Washington DC-born guitarist and composer Joel Harrison now turns his attention to a quintet recording featuring the intriguing front line of trumpet (Cuong Vu) and bassoon (Paul Hanson). Completed by NYC bassist Kermit Driscoll (bass) and the influential eminence of drummer Brian Blade, Harrison has created a genuine improvisers’ record on Spirit House with a conceptual focus very much on the intuitive skills of these specific players.
The richly colored palette of Joel Harrison’s output is influenced by many guitar greats such as Bill Frisell, John Scofield and Jeff Beck, with solid roots in the American rock and country eras of Duane Allman and Danny Gatton. Add to this an unerring passion for cross-pollination of musical cultures and genres, plus a distinctively vocal guitar expressiveness, and it becomes clear why Harrison’s evolving compositional sound worlds continue to engage.
Here, the instrumental line-up frequently deceives, such is the multiplicity of blends, textures and atmospheres achieved. The coupling of trumpet and bassoon, with astutely saturated guitar voicings, creates a remarkably effective ‘horn section’ – as heard in the exuberant 'Left Hook' – which is then able to divide, revealing fresh nuances in extemporization. Spacial jazz/blues number 'Sacred Love' contrasts markedly with the psychedelic fusion of 'An Elephant in Igor’s Yard'; Joel Harrison’s yearning, poetic lyrics inform 'Some Thoughts on Kenny Kirkland'; and woodwind flamboyance in 'Old Friends' has hints of melancholy and joy combined.
Harrison uses the album title Spirit House as an appropriate metaphor for the musical ‘sacred space’ this accomplished ensemble occupied to magically fashion an hour of inspired music greater than the sum of its parts. Amongst the leader’s ambitions for this album is the hope that its musical accessibility, including a peppering of song-based tracks, might reach still farther than the complexity of some of his previous releases:
“This is a project that mixes heart, soul, intellect and wit to create music that might move in different ways… to open a door inside the listener that helps to experience something which takes them on a journey.”
That sense of discovery is ever present in a quintet debut characterized by innate musicality and the wonderment of unpredictability.
"One of the most interesting voices in contemporary American music."
★★★★★ The Irish Times
"Spirit House is a Joel Harrison original! Original compositions, ideas, instrumentations, and grooves... Harrison creates completely new music worth listening to, repeatedly."
★★★★★ All About Jazz
"US guitarist Joel Harrison has forged resonant Americana, raw-edged rock and a rich jazz palette into densely textured originality. And with Brian Blade on drums and Paul Hanson’s bassoon in the front line, his quintet has the sonic resources to match."
★★★★ Financial Times
"Spirit House reaches out far beyond any notion of jazz parameters. Those prepared to listen beyond the jazz spectrum will be richly rewarded."
Bebop Spoken Here
"This is a refreshingly transparent performance... Spirit House blends the then and now but the music is always present."
The New York City Jazz Record
Recommended new release - Drummer Magazine
"Spirit House offers a real sense of discovery."
"Among that vast and eclectic back catalogue Spirit House already sounds like it will have a prominent place as one of Harrison’s most cohesive packages so far."
The Jazz Breakfast
"Though comprised primarily of challenging yet engaging modern jazz compositions, Spirit House finds Harrison briefly crossing over into sensitive sing-songwriter territory, buttressed by a phenomenal group of sympathetic musicians."
★★★★ All About Jazz
"... Solemn, playful, wistful, impressionistic... Joel Harrison never lets technique get in the way of melody."
"The ensemble encompasses a sense of spirituality, emphasizing the melodic decorations of the compositions."
"A languid and expressive album."
★★★★ The Telegraph (Best Jazz Albums of 2015)
"A refreshingly transparent performance and in keeping with Harrison's sense of the forces that move us... blends the then and now but the music is always present."
The New York City Jazz Record
"Another stunning album from guitarist and composer Joel Harrison which really brings out the best from his colleagues."
The Northern Echo
"It's a totally inspired album oozing musicality."
"Lingers long in the memory."
★★★★ Jazzwise Magazine
"Captures wonderfully the improvisational nature of the musicians."
Rhein Main Magazine
"[Spirit House] fascinates, captures and takes the listener on a journey."
"The American guitarist Joel Harrison is comfortable across many genres from jazz to rock and country as well as with West African and North Indian soundscapes."
"Joel Harrison has a distinctive expressiveness as both a guitarist and singer."
"An album full of surprises."
"Expressive and yet subtle music... rich contrast... highly recommended."
Drums and Percussion
"If music is a language, then guitarist Joel Harrison is a polyglot."
★★★★ DownBeat Magazine
"Joel Harrison is one of the most discreetly active guitarists who deserves opened ears and concentrated listening."
HiFi News & Record Review
"A wild roller coaster between modern, freestyle, improvisation and ambience."
"Spirit House is Joel Harrison's magum opus, as you would rarely find such a fine line drawn between so many styles and genres."
"Interesting variations of rhythm, inspired soloing and plenty of improvisation... A great recording.”
"A spectacular recording."
Jazz 'n' More
"A dynamite band."
“A truly successful jazz album reminiscent of one of the great works of Miles Davis.”
Nice laid back set from a group of guys generally known for music that is much more intense and complex. This lyrical album should have wide appeal. Smith's playing in particular is meltingly beautiful. duane_harvey
Tenor titan Walter Smith III explores the vast flexibility of the saxophone trio in his newest album as a leader, covering the entire span of the jazz American songbook from Jerome Kern to Wayne Shorter and beyond. jcblodgettmusic