by Ian Mann
April 04, 2006
This is an excellent debut from Harrison and as critics have pointed out an incredibly mature statement from such a young musician.
Oxford based pianist Frank Harrison (born 1978) is best known for his work with the fiery and charismatic Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon. In effect he has been Atzmon’s musical “right hand man” for the last five years and has appeared on four of his albums.
However on this, his first album as leader Harrison reveals the more reflective side of his musical personality.
He is joined by the young Scottish bassist Aidan O’Donnell who is fast earning a big reputation for himself after working with fellow Scots saxophonist Tommy Smith and trumpeter Colin Steele. O’Donnell has also worked with Alan Skidmore (saxophone) and with visiting American saxophonist David Binney among others.
Completing an all Celtic rhythm section is Irish drummer Stephen Keogh who has been on the scene a while longer and who has played with a wide variety of artists including such legendary figures as Johnny Griffin and Lee Konitz. He can be a very powerful drummer in the appropriate context but his playing here is full of musicality and restraint.
The band is very much in the ethos of the modern piano trio with each of the players having an equal input into the group sound. There is great interaction between the players. You can almost hear the musicians thinking.
The material consists of five Harrison originals and four standards. Everything is played at medium or ballad tempo. Harrison deconstructs Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” in the manner of a more restrained Brad Mehldau. “Nature Boy” is treated as a short and tender solo piano interlude.
On the original material there is something of the feel of an ECM session in the style of say, Bobo Stenson. Tracks such as “Afternoon In Tromso” and the title track “First Light” are very much in this vein as is the album’s opener Don Sebesky’s “You Can’t Go Home Again”. This impression is formed partly because the album is immaculately recorded.
Credit should be given to Stefano Amerio who engineered the session in Udine, Italy where the music was recorded and to Andrew Tulloch who mixed and mastered the album in London. The album was produced by Harrison and Keogh and there is a spacious quality to the production, which seems to make every note hang in the air in a manner reminiscent of Manfred Eicher’s work with ECM.
Harrison is superb throughout the recording. His playing is always delicate but is also exploratory and probing. He plays sparingly, is never hurried and makes effective use of the spaces between the notes. O’Donnell supports him brilliantly. He is rock solid as an accompanist and dextrous and fluent in his solos. Keogh’s drumming is apposite throughout. He is the epitome of good taste and reveals a whole new side to his playing.
This is an excellent debut from Harrison and as critics have pointed out an incredibly mature statement from such a young musician. The album compares well with John Taylor’s immaculate “Angel Of The Presence” album which was released earlier this year. To be bracketed with the masterful Taylor is praise indeed and in Frank Harrison it would seem that the future of British jazz piano playing is in good hands.blog comments powered by Disqus