Joel Harrison + 18 – America At War (2020) [24bit FLAC]

Joel Harrison + 18 – America At War (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:12:33 minutes | 755 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Sunnyside

Over two-plus decades spent living and working in New York, there is very little guitarist, composer, producer, and educator Joel Harrison hasn’t tried. Early outings included the seminal Free Country with Norah Jones and David Binney, the orchestral Infinite Possibility, and the singer/songwriter date Other River. Harrison is working with a concept here. America at War is a big-band meditation on America’s obsession with armed conflict; the country has been at war through 226 of its 240 years. In writing and arranging for a large group (they are conducted by trumpeter Matt Holman), Harrison pursues many musics under the rubric of jazz in eight originals and a cover of Tom Waits’ “Day After Tomorrow,” an antiwar song from 2004’s Real Gone, issued the year after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Some of Harrison’s 18 collaborators include trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, saxophonists Jon Irabagon and Lisa Parrot, trombonist Curtis Hasselbring, bassist Gregg August, and pianist Daniel Kelly.

The nearly ten-minute opener, “March on Washington,” starts as a funky assertion with tubas, trap kit, a punchy brass groove, and Harrison’s electric guitar laying out a sinister funk vamp adorned by Wilson Torres’s vibraphone. It winds itself out to play off the funky, bluesy vamp evoking early Hot Rats- and Waka Jawaka-era Frank Zappa as it proceeds. Dave Smith’s trumpet solo presages an explosive fuzzed-out wah-wah six-string break before the martial snare of Jared Schonig ushers in an extended cacophonous horn chart with a surprise conclusion. While “Yellowcake” begins with a noir-ish, dramatic, orchestral interlude, it suddenly shifts gears and finds a mean Latin groove accented by bright brass, hand percussion, and vibes, with killer solos from Hasselbring and Irabagon. “The Vultures at Afghanistan” is where the modernist big-band innovations of the Clarke-Boland Big Band meet the Afro-Cuban grooves of Irakere. Its solos from Irabagon, Ben Kono’s snaky soprano saxophone, and Alan Ferber’s boss trombone are underscored by Schonig’s frenetic kit, as well as Torres’ bongos, congas, and shakers.” “Requiem for an Unknown Soldier” is moodier, more expressionistic. The piano shimmers while introducing a slowly developing horn chart that offers staggered harmonies and pillowy textures in a long, languid suite, complete with stellar blues-inflected soloing from Jensen and Harrison. “Gratitude” weaves soul, gospel, and sunshine pop into its arrangement. Its processional tempo begins to accelerate and nod at the influence of Oliver Nelson halfway through, with swirling orchestral colors and polyrhythms. While Harrison’s guitar playing is front and center on Waits’ “Day After Tomorrow,” it is granted further poignancy by him singing the lyric in front of restrained and tasteful accompaniment. Finally, “Stupid, Heartless, Pointless Drug War,” melds post-bop jazz balladry, gritty blues, funky syncopation, and swinging tempos that would make Henry Mancini doff his hat to the composer. With America at War, Harrison proves once again he is a master of articulating and innovating on the modern big-band form and is a compelling contributor to its written literature. This is a masterful work whose significance and musical importance will endure.


1. March on Washington. 9:52
2. Yellowcake. 7:01
3. My Father In Nagasaki. 8:14
4. The Vultures of Afghanistan. 6:27
5. Requiem for an Unknown Soldier. 10:15
6. Gratitude. 9:38
7. Honor Song. 7:36
8. Day After Tomorrow. 6:40


– Joel Harrison | composer, arranger, guitar, voice
– Matt Holman | conductor
– Seneca Black | trumpet
– Dave Smith | trumpet, flugelhorn
– Ingrid Jensen | trumpet (1, 3, 5, 6, 8)
– Chris Rogers | trumpet (2, 4, 7, 9)
– Marshal Sealy | French horn
– Alan Ferber | trombone
– Sara Jacovino | trombone
– Curtis Hasselbring | trombone
– Ben Staap | tuba
– Ben Kono | English horn, soprano, alto saxophone & flute
– Ken Thomson | alto saxophone, Bb clarinet & bass clarinet
– Stacy Dillard | tenor saxophone
– Jon Irabagon | tenor saxophone, flute
– Lisa Parrot | baritone saxophone & bass clarinet
– Daniel Kelly | piano
– Gregg August | electric & acoustic bass
– Jard Schonig | drums
– Wilson Torres | vibraphone, timpani, concert bass drum, bongos, bells & shaker
– Ned Rothenberg | shakuhachi (3)

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