1 - As We Gather All Around Her
2 - Dockery Farm
3 - Remember
4 - The Overwhelming Infinity Of Possibility
5 - Highway
6 - Blue Lake Morning
CD Quality - 16 bit / 44.1 khz
The most intriguing artists are those that continually seek new challenges. They grow and adapt. Guitarist/composer Joel Harrison is a musician who is never complacent, continually learning, yet always true to his own vision. Infinite Possibility is Harrison's latest journey, compositions written for a 19 piece jazz orchestra. Like all of Harrison’s output, the music is at once contemporary and timeless.
As a guitarist and composer, Harrison has covered a lot of ground. He has written and arranged for small and mid-size jazz groups, African dance bands. classical ensembles and various amalgamations of instrumentalists from all over the world. He finds inspiration everywhere.
Harrison never studied conventional big band writing and only briefly played with a large ensemble while in college. He began to notice a trend as a number of his peers began their own explorations with expanded ensembles and felt a call. As he puts it, "I began to feel that if I called myself a jazz composer I had to tackle the big band medium." With the support of a Meet the Composer Commissioning grant (now New Music USA), the work began.
Naturally, Harrison had already been a fan of the work of Duke Ellington and Gil Evans but he didn’t look to big band forebears for direct inspiration. He just started writing, learning from his mistakes. Harrison admitted that this was a very humbling process: “It isn’t twice as hard as writing for a mid-size group. It is five times as hard.”
Harrison grew increasingly fascinated with the orchestral possibilities, all the various textures, and he made a point to include instruments not frequently heard in jazz big bands, like the French horn, English horn and vibraphone. Much of the music is through-composed and not just a setting for soloists (though there are tremendous solo contributions by the likes of saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trumpeter Taylor Haskins and woodwind player Ned Rothenberg). Strains of roots music, the blues and modern classical all worked their way into these lushly arranged compositions.
The recording begins with “As We Gather All Around Her,” which is based on an Appalachian hymn Harrison had heard Stanley Brothers do, and features a startling vocal from Everett Bradley. The haunting then rollicking “Dockery Farm” is inspired by Harrison’s trips to the Mississippi plantation where Charlie Patton and Howlin’ Wolf learned the blues. There is a wonderful moment in the middle where the three trombones and tuba freely improvise with Harrison, playful and mournful all at once. “Remember” is both tender and barbed, a tone poem with no improvisation, featuring vocalist Liala Biali.
“The Overwhelming Infinity of Possibility” is a bright, hopeful piece that begins with muted energy and builds to a raucous density, inspired by the works of György Ligeti and electric Miles Davis. The declaratory “Highway” is an inspiring, rich piece based on gospel and road song. The program concludes with “Blue Lake Morning,” a shimmering, warm piece that flowers with Harrison’s blend of classical harmony and roots songcraft.
Always seeking an opportunity to challenge himself, Harrison has taken on the task of writing and arranging original music for a large ensemble. The results presented on Infinite Possibility are astoundingly assured, inspired and original.
released 18 June 2013
Michel Gentile - flute
Ned Rothenberg - saxophone, clarinet, flute
Ben Kono - saxophone, oboe, english horn, flute
Donny McCaslin - tenor saxophone
Ben Wendel - tenor saxophone
Rob Scheps - tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute
Andy Laster - baritone saxophone
Seneca Black - trumpet
Taylor Haskins - trumpet
Dave Smith - trumpet
Justin Mullen - trumpet
Alan Ferber - trombone
Jacob Garchik - trombone
Curtis Fowlkes - trombone
Ben Stapp - tuba
Joseph Daley - tuba, euphonium
Joel Harrison - guitar - electric
Daniel Kelly - piano, keyboards
Kermit Driscoll - bass
James Shipp - vibes, marimba, hand percussions
Rob Garcia - drums
Everett Bradley - vocals
Liala Biali - vocals
Jc Sanford - conductor