At one point—when Esquivel, Lionel Hampton, big bands, Martin Denny, and others were in a heyday—the vibes and marimba were big stuff, and rightly so. Their ringing bell tones and tuned-wood sound is unique, but later days saw the utilization of the planked axe fall away, leaving cats like Gary Burton to take up the slack as much as he could. I once caught Ralph Towner and Gary together in an encore after an Oregon/Burton concert (with brand-new-to-the-scene Pat Metheny and Mick Goodrick in the same ensemble) at Royce Hall in UCLA, doing some of their Matchbook material, lending all the more credibility to the viability of a vibes / guitar based unit, and the unique combination rarely essayed there is exactly what forms the core of The Harris Group.
Errands showcases a quartet with sit-in violin and flute guest soloing in a couple of cuts, but it's the focus on what's melodically and tonally possible when vibraphone and guitar meet that places this CD on par with very few other bands or releases. It's just plain damned hard music to locate…and shouldn't be. Echoes of the treasured eponymous ECM disc Gallery, with Dave Samuels on vibes, come through, but I'd hesitate to place Harris' work too chockablock with it, his ensemble carrying distinct differences. It would be ridiculous to describe any vibes work as 'meaty', but Micah Rutschman's work is—when, that is, he's not stepping back to let Mason Cormie's bass work step up (Sidewalks)—solid and at times unusual, as in the single-note processions trotted out once or twice while soloing.
Harris mello-sides his presence kinda like Metheny's Chautagua period blended with its elder influences but also inflected to coincide with Rutschman's more delicate ringing notes. The percussion is likewise toned down to lay beneath even the most filigreed passages, working like breath and an arterial pulse keeping the restrained vivacities underlined. In criticism, the vibes are once or twice undermiked, however, here and there, as in King's Highway, and a clue, if I may, to the publicity/art department: that way righteous photo of Harris athwart a strange array of circled numbers in the promo lit would've been the perfect front cover photo for the disc, not the Grand Central Station snapshot shown, though that is interesting. Don't know who took the photograph, but he or she nailed the atmosphere of Errands through Harris himself. One glance at that, and the consumer knows what's what.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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