Harper Trio – Passing By
(Self – released / Bandcamp link below. Album review by Jon Turney
This engaging trio take their name from Maria-Christina Harper, who as it happens is also a harpist. Her electrified instrument is joined by Josephine Davies’ saxophones and Evan Jenkins’ drums in a repertoire the threesome have developed during a close association in Hastings, where all three live.
Harper writes the music, drawing on her mixed Greek and Egyptian heritage, and an allegiance to “spiritual jazz”. The links with that sub-genre, in which Alice Coltrane’s work looms large, are strengthened by the harp, which furnishes bass loops as well as melodies. Harp and percussion build meditative backdrops for Davies’ saxophone, which generally has a stronger improvisational role.
The percussion is ever present but skilfully minimal most of the time and the harp and drums offset Davies’ strong contributions on tenor and soprano saxes. It’s an excellent combination, lifted by Harper’s leaning toward Eastern scales – Passing By, for instance, sounds delightfully like Neil Ardley’s Balinese-inspired Kaleidescope of Rainbows.
I confess I overcame a small prejudice against the spiritual jazz tag here. Much of what appears under that umbrella quickly becomes dull, and surely all worthwhile music can be spiritual. Some experience feelings of transcendence via death metal, no doubt; others from electronica. I’m glad I investigated, though. Perhaps it’s best to take the designation as just an indication of reaching for the kind of relaxed intensity that is richly in evidence here. It is a session full of gentle rewards, that deepen on longer acquaintance. I remain agnostic whether it is more or less spiritual than other notable 2023 releases, but it is certainly a rewarding calling card for a trio it would be excellent to hear live.
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Passing By is released on 27 October 2023.