Heartfelt passion fuels new album from trumpeter Richard Harris
July 12, 2011 (Washington, D.C.) Written by Robert Sutton.
It's late in the evening, and the city is lit up like a Christmas tree. Rain falls on the pavement, illuminated by the headlights of passing automobiles. Couples walk together in a tight embrace as the wind brushes against their hair and clothes. Smiles beam through the darkness, but there is sadness, too.
These are the pictures that trumpeter Richard Harris paints with his instrument, the night life that is often associated with jazz. On his latest album Love's Sweet Song, Harris holds a camera to the sun coming down and snaps indelible images of what happens afterward.
Featuring Harris on trumpet and flugelhorn, pianist Mark Kieswetter, saxophonist/clarinetist Andrew Bishop, guitarist John Johnson, bassist Kurt Krahnke, and drummer/percussionist Scott Kretzer, Love's Sweet Song defines class and tastefulness as well as professionalism and, most importantly, heartfelt passion. The emotions that Harris conveys with his trumpet both soothe and stir the soul. His playing on Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" retains the melancholic ache of the original but adds a sultry sheen; his performance is stunningly beautiful, and Krahnke's funky bass adds another layer of depth.
The hopeless romanticism of "The Wee Small Hours of the Morning" is hauntingly pretty; Harris' slow, swirling trumpet is the soundtrack for a moonlight drive. One of the best tracks on the record is "A Song for G," which is dedicated to Harris' wife. Kieswetter's crystalline piano offers a yearning undertow to the sweetness of Harris' playing. It's absolutely lovely.
However, Harris' stylistic abilities extend beyond that of romantic balladry. "The Way You Look Tonight" is infectiously upbeat, revealing that Harris can express affection with youthful exuberance as well as adult contentment.
(Harris is a patient with primary systemic amyloidosis, a rare and fatal blood disease that presently has no cure. A portion of each copy sold of Love's Sweet Song will be donated to amyloidosis support.)
"This is a terrific recording, excellent arrangements of some classic numbers, top class production, and playing of the highest quality. Mr. Harris plays with a fine clarity and produces a clear and well defined sound that is a pleasure to listen to. GREAT WORK ALL AROUND."
Keith Community Radio
102.8 FM Jazz
"Fantastic Album. Great stuff for our Radio Station!"
"Can I ask you to send me one more copy (maybe signed) of this truly wonderful CD?"
"Sunny Breeze Show"
From Jazz to Rock to Ambient and New Age
Minsk FM Radio
"Excellent disc - I play it all the time."
David McCrory, 105.9 FM Jazz
The following is a review of the CD by a truly great Jazz writer, critic, and broadcaster based in Miami, Edward Blanco, who posted this review in the publication EJazzNews.com:
CD Reviews: Richard Harris, “Songs From My Heart”
Posted by: editoron Thursday, May 07, 2009 - 09:15 PM
By: Edward Blanco
Jazz music comes in many forms and styles with a plethora of bebop, hard bop and swinging sounds designed to gyrate ones hips and produce involuntary snaps of the fingers to the beat of the rhythm. But once in a while, we all feel the need to mellow out and just relax with some nice soothing music and that's just the kind of jazz one will encounter with “Songs From My Heart.” The debut release as leader from Washington D.C. Area trumpeter Richard Harris, the album offers plenty of gentle material that succeeds in touching the heart and appealing to one's softer side.
Harris features a sextet comprised of pianist Mark Kieswetter, tenor saxophonist Ben Jansson, bassist Kurt Krahnke, guitarist Rodney Rich and drummer Scott Kretzer who together deliver a first-rate performance throughout. Claiming influences from such greats as Chet Baker, Clifford Brown and Chris Botti, on this recording, the Harris sound does not truly resemble these influences, in fact Harris manages to forge his own unique style playing a rich deep-toned horn that seems perfect for the warm jazz found here.
Billed as “intimate jazz” the music does indeed live up to the billing offering romantic interpretations of such classics as “When I Fall In Love,” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” and Jerome Kern's “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” among others. Beginning with light piano lines from Kieswetter in combination with Kretzer's soft brush work, Harris opens up with a tender read of George Gershwin's “Someone To Watch Over Me” setting the stage for the mellow theme of the album. This is followed by the David Raskin classic “Laura,” which the leader dedicates to his daughter and maternal grandmother of the same name. Saxophonist Jansson lays down a floating tenor phrase that only Harris himself bests with his own horn solos.
Having established the gentle side of this disc, not all is laid back however as two pieces of music in particular will detail. The Harris arrangement of Van Morrison's popular pop tune “Moondance” offers a swinging musical landscape for Harris, the sax man and guitarist Rich to provide a bit of swing. The original “Club Havana” is perhaps the breakout number of the album filled with spicy and delicious solos from the tenorist and Harris on flugelhorn as Kieswetter leaves the piano for the electric piano dicing the sound in what turns out to be one riveting number ending in a crescendo of sounds.
For a mellow musical experience that one will appreciate often, sample the Richard Harris debut “Songs From My Heart,”and allow this enchanting and impressive session of light contemporary jazz, to touch a part of your soul. On a very serious side, a portion of the proceeds of this album are dedicated to the research and public awareness of Amyloidosis, a rare progressive debilitating and eventually fatal disease which, Harris struggles with daily. Harris is committed to fighting the affliction with every fiber of his being and as such, with this recording, enlists his music in the battle of his life.
"Fantastic! Could you please send me your discs and I'll play them on my show! Great tone!"
Gary Lowe - the "Exploring Jazz" Show
WSCA - FM
"Thank you for the magic...Keep on playing and feeling!"
Esther Berlanga - Ryan
Radio Broadcaster, Journalist, Jazz Writer
LIVE 365 Radio
Greetings from Skopje, Macedonia. Enclosed is one of my recent radio playlists which include your excellent material. Always interested to present more from you when possible!
94.1 Radio 2
Joe Kocherhans, Music Director of Station KSDS-FM Jazz 88 in San Diego, California had this to say ...
"We added your recording to our playlist last week. Great Job!
"His "Club Havana" is perhaps the most unfettered track on the CD. Harris's lustrous flugelhorn plays the dancing theme over an infectious Latin pulse. Jannson's tenor solo flows with an acutely lyrical, [Stan] Getz-like sensibility, Kieswetter delivers skillfully executed accompaniment on electric piano, in addition to a lilting and assured solo. Harris caresses the melody once again before the surprise appearance of a boppish vamp right out of Bird on 52nd Street, a perfect finishing touch to this well-arranged performance."
Rating 92/100 "Outstanding. A work of superior merit."
Scott Albin writing for Jazz.com