Harrison has technique aplenty but doesn't allow it to get in the way of ideas. He is also lyrical. If you consider his time as an accompanist you will understand why. Think of Jimmy Rowles, Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones, all of whom accompanied Ella. Think of the younger Cyrus Chestnut and Jacky Terrasson who graduated from Betty Carter's school. For starters, you have to be darn good to be picked as a accompanist. Then the experience can't help but heighten your listening skills and lyrical sense.
This release is an interesting mix of the familiar and the less so. Harrison's crisp touch and flair for clean single-note lines are displayed on the hard-driving "It's You or No One" and "The Way You Look Tonight." "Willow Weep for Me" becomes a bluesy jazz waltz and there's a rollicking version of Monk's "Rhythm-A-Ning." The Eddie Harris ballad "Watching the Years Go By" is lightly swung. Harrison's introspective side is illustrated by a poignant tribute to departed friends, "You Won't Forget Me," and the Landesman/Wolf "Ballad Of The Sad Young Men," an inspired choice, (They wrote the beautiful "Spring Can Hang You Up the Most.") His instrumental take on the hymn-like "Ballad" reflects its melancholy theme and lyrics. The title track, a sensitivly played Harrison original, is Latin-tinged and accessible. Steve Kuhn's "Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers" gives the trio plenty of opportunity for exploration. Throughout, Alan Hall and Peter Kontrimas furnish the pianist with strong support. Judging from the overall sound quality, Bassist Kontrimas is also a quality recording engineer.
In a recent interview with SouthCoast Today, John Harrison expressed concern about the future of jazz. He is also doing something about that future by teaching college students, visiting elementary schools and creating this fine CD.