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Frank Harrison Trio - Frank Harrison Trio, The Hive Music and Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 12/09/2015. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Two sets of music that saw this highly interactive trio stretching the fabric of the largely standards based material and finding something new to say on even the most familiar of tunes.

Photograph sourced from the Shrewsbury Jazz Network website http://www.shrewsburyjazznetwork.co.uk


Frank Harrison Trio, The Hive Music and Media Centre, Shrewsbury.

The first event of Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s 2015/16 season saw them inviting pianist and composer Frank Harrison back to The Hive following his acclaimed performance there as a sideman with part of saxophonist Tommaso Starace’s quartet back in November 2014.

This time round Harrison was leading his regular working trio of Dave Whitford (double bass) and Enzo Zirilli (drums) for a programme that featured adventurous explorations of a series of well known jazz standards alongside a smattering of Harrison’s original compositions.

Harrison is probably best known to UK jazz audiences as a key member of multi-instrumentalist Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble but he has also worked with bands led by Starace, guitarist Louis Stewart, drummer Asaf Sirkis, vocalist/guitarist Sarah Gillespie and others. Indeed less than a week before this Shrewsbury appearance I had seen him performing as part of Gillespie’s trio in an excellent show at the wall2wall Jazz Festival in Abergavenny.

Harrison is an adaptable and versatile musician capable of playing both acoustic piano and electric keyboards and his skills have ensured that he is kept very busy as a highly reliable sideman and accompanist. But Harrison has always found time to lead his own trio, initially with bassist Aidan O’Donnell and drummer Stephen Keogh who both appeared on his excellent leadership début “First Light” (Basho Records, 2006).

His second album “Sideways” (2012) featured Keogh and the Italian born bassist David Petrocca while the more recent “Lunaris” (2014) and the semi official “Live At The Verdict” have featured the current line up of Whitford and Zirilli. The live album was recorded at The Verdict in Brighton, an excellent basement club with a good, listening, atmosphere plus superb acoustics and its own grand piano. The trio’s show there was initially recorded for their own use but the quality of the performance was so high that they decided to make the performance available to the general listening public and in many ways it’s the recording that best sums up what the Frank Harrison Trio is all about.
Incidentally I was lucky enough to visit The Verdict myself during the summer of 2015 where I saw an excellent performance from a quintet led by Ivo Neame, another of the UK’s leading pianists and composers.

With no acoustic piano available at the Hive Harrison adapted his by approach utilising a set up of his usual Technics Pro 30 keyboard plus what appeared to be a new toy, an Axiom Pro 49 synthesiser. Interestingly Harrison made no attempt to recreate the sound of an acoustic piano, instead choosing to adopt a classic electric piano or ‘Rhodes’ sound almost throughout. In the main this served the music well although some listeners felt that they were missing the subtleties of his left hand harmonies as a result. Nevertheless there was still much to enjoy in two sets of music that saw this highly interactive trio stretching the fabric of the largely standards based material and finding something new to say on even the most familiar of tunes.

They opened with “How Deep Is The Ocean” which began with a bass and drum intro as Harrison hastily scampered back to the green room to retrieve the set list he’d contrived to leave behind! Good start, Frank. This minor pecadillo was soon forgotten as Harrison joined in with his colleagues and created a series of richly atmospheric textures as he deployed both piano and synthesiser simultaneously. The trio subsequently stretched out with Harrison taking the first solo on piano, followed by Whitford at the bass and finally Zirilli with a series of drum breaks as he gleefully exchanged ideas with Harrison. This piece typified the trio’s approach, highly interactive and conversational and with the individual members being given a considerable amount of freedom to shape the direction of the music. This was jazz with freedom, but never free jazz.
From “Lunaris” came Harrison’s own “Sunrise (Port Meadow)”, a delightfully melodic original composition that began in the style of an elegant ballad with brushed drums accompanying Harrison’s initially lyrical piano solo. As Harrison’s solo gained momentum Zirilli switched to sticks, such adaptability and flexibility was a hallmark of the trio’s work throughout. Whitford then took over at the bass before the piece took a South American turn and segued into Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Portrait In Black And White” which featured Zirilli wielding shakers as he accompanied further solos from Harrison and Whitford. 

“Answer Me My Love” was an interesting choice, a German folk tune that was transformed into a cheesy pop hit in the 1950s but with Harrison deriving his inspiration from a later interpretation by Joni Mitchell. Here it was delivered in the style of a jazz ballad with Whitford delivering a highly melodic bass solo alongside Harrison’s own ruminations at the piano.

A hugely enjoyable first set concluded with a standard that Harrison described as being “topical”. It was, of course, “Autumn Leaves” but probably as no one in the audience had ever heard it before. An impressionistic intro featuring synthesiser plus cymbal shimmers and scrapes eventually led to Harrison picking out the familiar melody but with Whitford and Zirilli treating it to a very contemporary groove. Harrison took the first solo at the piano and this highly adventurous interpretation of a very familiar standard was climaxed by a powerful and impressive drum feature from the excellent Zirilli.  A different, but equally intriguing, version of the tune appears on the “Live At The Verdict” recording. 

The second set began with another piece that also appears on the live album, Jerome Kern’s “I’m Old Fashioned” which was subjected to a typically in depth investigation by the trio. Zirilli introduced the piece at the drums with a feature that involved the dampening of the skins to produce an impressively diverse array of sounds. Subsequent solos came from Harrison at the piano and Whitford at the bass as the trio probed at the structure of the tune which ended in similar fashion to the way in which it began with an engrossing series of exchanges between Harrison and Zirilli. 

The Harrison original, “Io”, was sourced from the moon themed album “Lunaris” and featured Harrison’s synth and keyboard washes allied to Zirilli’s atmospheric cymbal work with the drummer cast very much in the colourist’s role as Whitford’s bass supplied the anchor.

Dave Brubeck’s compositions are always ripe for exploration and the trio turned in a spirited and adventurous version of “In Your Own Sweet Way” with Harrison’s piano solo quoting snippets from other well known tunes, “Secret Love” amongst them, before Zirilli rounded things off with another colourful drum feature.

Solo piano introduced a particularly interesting and quirky take on “Tea For Two”, a tune also explored on the “Live At The Verdict” album with Whitford taking the first solo followed by Harrison.

Harrison’s deconstructions of well known standards are sometimes reminiscent of Brad Mehldau but the pianist’s real touchstone is Bill Evans and the trio clearly took great delight in examining the complexities of Evans’ “34 Skidoo” with its shifting time signatures. Solos came here from Harrison and Whitford with Zirilli turning in a further series of imaginative brushed drum breaks as he again traded ideas with Harrison.

The performance concluded with another standard, which shamefully I didn’t make a note of. I suspect it may have been Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”, a trio favourite which appears on the Verdict live album. In any event it was a sprightly rendition with solos from all three protagonists.


Sue Watkins of SJN then tempted the trio back to the stage to play a brief encore which saw the trio cooling things down with the Harrison original “Lament” which featured Whitford’s supremely melodic bass playing plus the leader’s lyrical piano.

Harrison and his colleagues had got SJN’s new season off to an excellent start with their brand of adventurous but accessible jazz. All three musicians were in excellent form and the rapport between them was instinctive and intelligent. Audience numbers were encouraging and the Shrewsbury public was joined for the second set by two of the rising stars of UK jazz, saxophonist Duncan Eagles and guitarist Leo Appleyard, both previous performers at the venue, who had dropped by on their way back to London from a function gig in Cheshire. Good to see you guys. Duncan will be back again with Partikel and a full string quartet to play music from the “String Theory” album on 9th January 2016. Should be a great start to the New Year. Meanwhile I hope to catch Leo’s new project “Urchin” at the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival.

But tonight belonged to Frank Harrison and his excellent trio. Thanks to Frank for taking the time to chat with me afterwards and for the gift of a copy of “Live At The Verdict”. Despite the relatively lo-fi quality of the recording it still sounds great and is highly recommended. The album is available at gigs, a real bargain for a fiver, or from Frank’s website http://www.frankharrison.net

Next up at The Hive is Harrison’s close associate Asaf Sirkis who will lead an exciting quintet featuring Tassos Spiliotopoulos (guitar), John Turville (keyboards), Kevin Glasgow (six string electric bass) and guest Gareth Lockrane (flutes). Saturday October 10th 2015 - please visit http://www.shrewsburyjazznetwork.co.uk for more details. 

     

Frank Harrison Trio, The Hive Music and Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 12/09/2015.

Frank Harrison Trio

Monday, September 14, 2015

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Frank Harrison Trio, The Hive Music and Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 12/09/2015.

Two sets of music that saw this highly interactive trio stretching the fabric of the largely standards based material and finding something new to say on even the most familiar of tunes.

Photograph sourced from the Shrewsbury Jazz Network website http://www.shrewsburyjazznetwork.co.uk


Frank Harrison Trio, The Hive Music and Media Centre, Shrewsbury.

The first event of Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s 2015/16 season saw them inviting pianist and composer Frank Harrison back to The Hive following his acclaimed performance there as a sideman with part of saxophonist Tommaso Starace’s quartet back in November 2014.

This time round Harrison was leading his regular working trio of Dave Whitford (double bass) and Enzo Zirilli (drums) for a programme that featured adventurous explorations of a series of well known jazz standards alongside a smattering of Harrison’s original compositions.

Harrison is probably best known to UK jazz audiences as a key member of multi-instrumentalist Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble but he has also worked with bands led by Starace, guitarist Louis Stewart, drummer Asaf Sirkis, vocalist/guitarist Sarah Gillespie and others. Indeed less than a week before this Shrewsbury appearance I had seen him performing as part of Gillespie’s trio in an excellent show at the wall2wall Jazz Festival in Abergavenny.

Harrison is an adaptable and versatile musician capable of playing both acoustic piano and electric keyboards and his skills have ensured that he is kept very busy as a highly reliable sideman and accompanist. But Harrison has always found time to lead his own trio, initially with bassist Aidan O’Donnell and drummer Stephen Keogh who both appeared on his excellent leadership début “First Light” (Basho Records, 2006).

His second album “Sideways” (2012) featured Keogh and the Italian born bassist David Petrocca while the more recent “Lunaris” (2014) and the semi official “Live At The Verdict” have featured the current line up of Whitford and Zirilli. The live album was recorded at The Verdict in Brighton, an excellent basement club with a good, listening, atmosphere plus superb acoustics and its own grand piano. The trio’s show there was initially recorded for their own use but the quality of the performance was so high that they decided to make the performance available to the general listening public and in many ways it’s the recording that best sums up what the Frank Harrison Trio is all about.
Incidentally I was lucky enough to visit The Verdict myself during the summer of 2015 where I saw an excellent performance from a quintet led by Ivo Neame, another of the UK’s leading pianists and composers.

With no acoustic piano available at the Hive Harrison adapted his by approach utilising a set up of his usual Technics Pro 30 keyboard plus what appeared to be a new toy, an Axiom Pro 49 synthesiser. Interestingly Harrison made no attempt to recreate the sound of an acoustic piano, instead choosing to adopt a classic electric piano or ‘Rhodes’ sound almost throughout. In the main this served the music well although some listeners felt that they were missing the subtleties of his left hand harmonies as a result. Nevertheless there was still much to enjoy in two sets of music that saw this highly interactive trio stretching the fabric of the largely standards based material and finding something new to say on even the most familiar of tunes.

They opened with “How Deep Is The Ocean” which began with a bass and drum intro as Harrison hastily scampered back to the green room to retrieve the set list he’d contrived to leave behind! Good start, Frank. This minor pecadillo was soon forgotten as Harrison joined in with his colleagues and created a series of richly atmospheric textures as he deployed both piano and synthesiser simultaneously. The trio subsequently stretched out with Harrison taking the first solo on piano, followed by Whitford at the bass and finally Zirilli with a series of drum breaks as he gleefully exchanged ideas with Harrison. This piece typified the trio’s approach, highly interactive and conversational and with the individual members being given a considerable amount of freedom to shape the direction of the music. This was jazz with freedom, but never free jazz.
From “Lunaris” came Harrison’s own “Sunrise (Port Meadow)”, a delightfully melodic original composition that began in the style of an elegant ballad with brushed drums accompanying Harrison’s initially lyrical piano solo. As Harrison’s solo gained momentum Zirilli switched to sticks, such adaptability and flexibility was a hallmark of the trio’s work throughout. Whitford then took over at the bass before the piece took a South American turn and segued into Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Portrait In Black And White” which featured Zirilli wielding shakers as he accompanied further solos from Harrison and Whitford. 

“Answer Me My Love” was an interesting choice, a German folk tune that was transformed into a cheesy pop hit in the 1950s but with Harrison deriving his inspiration from a later interpretation by Joni Mitchell. Here it was delivered in the style of a jazz ballad with Whitford delivering a highly melodic bass solo alongside Harrison’s own ruminations at the piano.

A hugely enjoyable first set concluded with a standard that Harrison described as being “topical”. It was, of course, “Autumn Leaves” but probably as no one in the audience had ever heard it before. An impressionistic intro featuring synthesiser plus cymbal shimmers and scrapes eventually led to Harrison picking out the familiar melody but with Whitford and Zirilli treating it to a very contemporary groove. Harrison took the first solo at the piano and this highly adventurous interpretation of a very familiar standard was climaxed by a powerful and impressive drum feature from the excellent Zirilli.  A different, but equally intriguing, version of the tune appears on the “Live At The Verdict” recording. 

The second set began with another piece that also appears on the live album, Jerome Kern’s “I’m Old Fashioned” which was subjected to a typically in depth investigation by the trio. Zirilli introduced the piece at the drums with a feature that involved the dampening of the skins to produce an impressively diverse array of sounds. Subsequent solos came from Harrison at the piano and Whitford at the bass as the trio probed at the structure of the tune which ended in similar fashion to the way in which it began with an engrossing series of exchanges between Harrison and Zirilli. 

The Harrison original, “Io”, was sourced from the moon themed album “Lunaris” and featured Harrison’s synth and keyboard washes allied to Zirilli’s atmospheric cymbal work with the drummer cast very much in the colourist’s role as Whitford’s bass supplied the anchor.

Dave Brubeck’s compositions are always ripe for exploration and the trio turned in a spirited and adventurous version of “In Your Own Sweet Way” with Harrison’s piano solo quoting snippets from other well known tunes, “Secret Love” amongst them, before Zirilli rounded things off with another colourful drum feature.

Solo piano introduced a particularly interesting and quirky take on “Tea For Two”, a tune also explored on the “Live At The Verdict” album with Whitford taking the first solo followed by Harrison.

Harrison’s deconstructions of well known standards are sometimes reminiscent of Brad Mehldau but the pianist’s real touchstone is Bill Evans and the trio clearly took great delight in examining the complexities of Evans’ “34 Skidoo” with its shifting time signatures. Solos came here from Harrison and Whitford with Zirilli turning in a further series of imaginative brushed drum breaks as he again traded ideas with Harrison.

The performance concluded with another standard, which shamefully I didn’t make a note of. I suspect it may have been Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”, a trio favourite which appears on the Verdict live album. In any event it was a sprightly rendition with solos from all three protagonists.


Sue Watkins of SJN then tempted the trio back to the stage to play a brief encore which saw the trio cooling things down with the Harrison original “Lament” which featured Whitford’s supremely melodic bass playing plus the leader’s lyrical piano.

Harrison and his colleagues had got SJN’s new season off to an excellent start with their brand of adventurous but accessible jazz. All three musicians were in excellent form and the rapport between them was instinctive and intelligent. Audience numbers were encouraging and the Shrewsbury public was joined for the second set by two of the rising stars of UK jazz, saxophonist Duncan Eagles and guitarist Leo Appleyard, both previous performers at the venue, who had dropped by on their way back to London from a function gig in Cheshire. Good to see you guys. Duncan will be back again with Partikel and a full string quartet to play music from the “String Theory” album on 9th January 2016. Should be a great start to the New Year. Meanwhile I hope to catch Leo’s new project “Urchin” at the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival.

But tonight belonged to Frank Harrison and his excellent trio. Thanks to Frank for taking the time to chat with me afterwards and for the gift of a copy of “Live At The Verdict”. Despite the relatively lo-fi quality of the recording it still sounds great and is highly recommended. The album is available at gigs, a real bargain for a fiver, or from Frank’s website http://www.frankharrison.net

Next up at The Hive is Harrison’s close associate Asaf Sirkis who will lead an exciting quintet featuring Tassos Spiliotopoulos (guitar), John Turville (keyboards), Kevin Glasgow (six string electric bass) and guest Gareth Lockrane (flutes). Saturday October 10th 2015 - please visit http://www.shrewsburyjazznetwork.co.uk for more details. 

     


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