Harvie S & Eye Contact back at 55 Bar Tuesday August 28th


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At The 55 Bar
Tuesday August 28th
7th Ave and Chrisophor St.
2 sets starting at 9:30pm
Adam Weber - Drums
Daniel Kelly - Piano
Bruce Arnold - Guitar
Harvie S - Acoustic Bass

Harvie S & Eye Contact New Beginning CD Review

One of the most creative bassists in jazz, Harvie S has continued changing to satisfy his interests in new ideas, so much so that he has condensed his last name to its sibilant first initial. No one could spell his last name correctly anyway, according to S. It made sense to abolish it in the interests of name retention, even if it may recall images of Joseph K., who possessed the same kind of initialed last name, albeit with the period. Besides, the possessive of S's name poses some interesting possibilities. (For purposes of documentation, his last name used to be “Swartz.")

However, S, so rational in the reduction of his name to its bare S-sential, has added another layer of creative fulfillment in his exploration of musical forms through his latest group, Eye Contact.

Following up on its first CD, Havana Maana, Eye Contact is to be commended, as well as enjoyed, for its insight into Latin music. The group doesn't caricaturize the music or take the easy way out. Indeed, the variety of styles within the genre on New Beginning impresses even the casual listener. The contrast of approaches no doubt is intentional.

Michael Brecker joins the S group on the appropriately named first track, “New Beginning," as he elaborates upon the opening bass-and-piano motif. While adding some fire and melodic elucidation to the song, it quickly becomes clear that S and pianist Daniel Kelly color the group with its most distinctive shadings, Kelly developing a tremoloing interlude over Adam Weber's clip-clopping on the drums. Compositionally, in spite of the differences in mood, S's signature, in none too abbreviated a fashion, is stamped on his compositions throughout New Beginning: undeniably strong, sometimes unexpected accents calling the listener's attention to the music.

The next tune, “En La Batalla," quickly identifies itself as Cuban in inspiration, and the pianist wastes no time in tossing in the Latin fire that one would expect from a pianist named Valds or Rubalcaba, rather than one named Kelly. At one point, Kelly punctuates the climactic excitement of his solo with a slamming of the keyboard and serpentine lines in clav. Without exaggeration, during a glossy-jazz-magazine blindfold test, Kelly would be identified, ten times out of ten, as a native of Cuba, rather than Ohio.

“Chump Change" starts with the piano vamp on top and a Deep South sonority from guitarist Bruce Arnold that veritably cries out in blues and ironic languor. In the midst of the tune's give and take, Kelly and Arnold plinking and twanging at each other, S inserts an attention-getting 5/4 bridge reminiscent of “Everything's Alright" from Jesus Christ Superstar.

However, the startling contrasts among the tracks become unavoidably obvious on “Luna Romantica," as violinist Gregor Huebner and S on arco bass establish a stringed chamber-group introduction. Or at least it seems that way to “me" (which appellation probably should be foreshortened and initialized ungrammatically to “I"). Once “Luna Romantica" proceeds into the body of the song, it is revealed as a montuno, with S developing the melody as he is backed by guitar and drums. The perceptions of Latin origins are confirmed, despite the offsetting introduction, when trumpeter Ray Vega comes in with an emotionally affecting solo backed by Arnold's end-of-phrase allusions to dance and Weber's rising dynamics of cowbelled clangor.

Another example of an alternative approach to his subject is S's use of apparent double meters on “From The Ashes" as Kelly's gossamer chinging catches us unawares when it leads, however logically, to Vega's and Brecker's longer-toned 6/8 interplay.

New Beginning presents S as still innovative and insatiably curious about new ways to develop the language of music, even as Eye Contact eyes the language of Latin music with a full appreciation of its complexity and infectiousness.

--Don Williamson

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