The Harris Group – Choices (2012)

Share this:

Ric Harris put his career as a jazz guitarist on hold to raise his kids and deal with a life long seizure disorder, so he can be excused to taken so long to make his first album, but he made the most of that long-delayed moment. Coming back to this passion of his and gaining an even deeper understanding of jazz tradition and beauty than ever before, Choices, by his Harris group quartet, is an official first step that sounds like the deliberate, carefully conceived first step that it is. Helping out Harris are Micah Rutschman on vibraphone, Tom Haugen on drums and Mike Daly on bass. Chris Greene adds his soprano sax on a couple of tunes.

You gain an affinity for a record because some standout thing or two about it draws you in. For Choices, it’s the combined sound of Harris’ guitar and Rutschman’s vibes, both possessing rich tones that, along with Haugen’s loosely swinging drums and Daly’s taut bass flow, create an intonation that’s both traditional and contemporary at the same time. It’s a trick Harris picked up from the 80s vibes-led combo Steps Ahead.

Harris’ technique isn’t flashy, but his strengths lie in locating the goodness of a melody and enunciating it fully when he’s improvising. Citing the Joe Beck as a major influence, I can also find traces of Steve Khan in his vocabulary and tone. Rutschman is more of a pure improviser and he fulfills that role plenty good enough on his own.

The choice of material on Choices is another strong suit of the record. Harris’ own songs are usually buoyant numbers that are easy to embrace, such as “Choices,” “Cape Hatteras” and “Chances Are.” “Paula’s Waltz” is a fresh take on the tried-and-true 3/4 time signature and “Around The Block” employs two different rhythm patterns that switches between them gracefully. Everyone gets to stretch out a bit on “Across The Divide,” which also treats us to pretty unison lines by Harris and Rutschman. Two classic 60s compositions are among the handful of covers: Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance” and Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.” Maybe these songs are overplayed, but I rarely get tired of hearing them and the Harris Group’s treatments of them only serve to remind me what great melodies these are.

Choices is full of great melodies and guys who know how to exploit them.

Choices self released April 24, 2012. Visit the Harris Group’s website for more info.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B006IR86QY” /]

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
Share this:
Close