Donald Harrison – Free style

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COMPOSERS: Donald Harrison
LABELS: Nagel Heyer
PERFORMER: Donald Harrison (alto saxophone), Glenn Patscha (piano), Vicente Archer (bass), John Lamkin (drums), Ron Carter (bass), Billy Cobham (drums)


Altoist Donald Harrison learnt his trade in the Art Blakey school of hard bop during the mid-1980s, with the Jazz Messengers. The late drummer’s influence has stayed with him and Harrison’s music remains muscular and strongly rhythmic in a manner which Blakey would surely approve. Yet Harrison has moved on and Free Style finds the altoist pressing out more obtuse, angular lines, pushing against the rhythm section to make his point. The set list is interesting.


Among the gangsterish Harrison originals there is a raw, swinging take on Miles Davis’s ‘So What’ and a tight, funky version of Monk’s ‘Well You Needn’t’. In a nod to his roots (he comes from New Orleans), Harrison trips jauntily through the creole anthem ‘Iko Iko’. Whipsmart drummer John Lamkin adds a tautness to the sound that suits Harrison well, while bassist Vicente Archer brings a discreet bounce. In a clever promotional move for an earlier album, there are two bonus tracks that feature Harrison with the dream rhythm team of Ron Carter (bass) and Billy Cobham (drums). Garry Booth