The career of Joel Harrison has often proved an exasperating one to follow, the American guitarist as capable of exploring the music of Paul Motian on the one hand as he is the music of the Beatle George Harrison on the other, and as happy in Americana-type situations as he is to be found in more recognisably contemporary jazz ones. On this latest work the guitarist has decided to investigate North Indian music in the company of “non-western ally” sarodist Anupam Shobhakar, framing it within jazz and American folk stylings in the company of a band bristling with talent including pianist Gary Versace, prolific expatriate Austrian bassist Hans Glawischnig, drummer/tabla player Dan Weiss plus guests notably alto saxophonist David Binney and Indian vocalists. The album takes its time to reveal itself. Yet even so Harrison and Shobhakar blend more than well, and they produce a nuanced meshing of ancient and modern musical styles that include the inclusion of traditional Bengali music and an African-American spiritual harnessing incendiary improvisational resources to spectacular effect at certain points especially when David Binney breaks clear. I liked the version of Willie Dixon’s ‘Spoonful’ best, a song held dear in the 1960s and since by fans of Cream. Here the song is rootsy and elaborately laid back, and Leave the Door Open works best when it’s at its most relaxed and able to steer away from the overly technical.
Released on 10 March
Joel Harrison, above left, and Anupam Shobhakar