Barry Cleveland: Joel Harrison & Spirit House at Douglas Beach House 4/7/13

April 09, 2013

Tucked away amidst a mostly pedestrian street, the Douglas Beach House in Half Moon Bay, home of the non-profit Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, hosts some amazing shows on Sunday afternoons (as well as serving up tasty food and drink).

Last Sunday, guitarist and composer Joel Harrison (featured in the November 2012 issue of GP) brought an all-star band to the diminutive oceanfront venue: the ever-inventive Brian Blade on drums, electric bassoonist Paul Hanson, veteran bassist Kermit Driscoll, and trumpet iconoclast Cuong Vu. This particular lineup only been playing together for a short time, but had already developed a strong and remarkably coherent ensemble dynamic. They mostly played Harrison's compositions, but also covered a Monk tune, and for the encore they jettisoned the piece they'd planned when Driscoll called "Sweet Georgia Brown"—a surprising choice that they used as a springboard to soar from height to height.
Harrison's playing encompassed hypnotic riffs, volume-swelled chord clusters, hip bop comping, and bluesy solos—including some deft New York by way of Chicago slide work.
Harrison said that the group was to begin recording the following day, and if they can capture performances as transcendent as those I witnessed on Sunday the album will be amazing.
Here's a link to my interview with Harrison.

And here's some video shot by Michael Celentana, who was good enough to post it to YouTube. Harrison doesn't solo on this piece, but Vu and Hanson do, and it definitely provides a sense of what the band sounded like:


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