Gregory Harrington (violin): Simon Mulligan (piano): Leon Boykins (bass):
Matt Scarano (drums) with Eleanor Norton (cello) Ric Molina (guitar)
Recorded Cutting Room, NYC, 2018
It Never Entered My Mind
Life and Death
With or Without You
The Nearness of You
When I Fall in Love
Irish violinist Gregory Harrington is classically trained and he’s now
based in New York where his repertoire is broad – Bach to Radiohead, and
Bob Dylan to Ravel – and has earned him wide, national exposure. Without You, dedicated to his late father, and appropriately
launched on Father’s Day, surveys some of his enthusiasms, from Leonard
Cohen to Hoagy Carmichael, Gershwin to U2. Never let it be said that
Harrington is afraid to mix up his repertoire.
His quartet includes pianist Simon Mulligan, bassist Leon Boykins and
drummer Matt Scarano. Mulligan is known for his own jazz quartet but also
for his solo classical and ensemble work; I think of him particularly with
regards to Daniel Hope, another forthright and questing musician. It’s an
eleven-track album and there are a lot of good things about it. Harrington
has the knack of extracting dark, husky colours, as he shows on Cohen’s
now-standard Halleluiah, where this huskiness, largely a product
of an articulate bowing arm, is allied to a kind of vocalised approach to
the song, though later he expands into more formal classicism.
There is plenty of witty interplay on Autumn Leaves, with a
springy rhythm and Grappelli-like flourishes and things fine down to just
violin and piano on a rather meditative, melancholy and quietly beautiful Emmanuel, a piece by Michel Colombier. Where, as here,
arrangements have been called for, they’re all Harrington’s work. Boykins
makes his presence felt on Summertime and Scarano lets loose some
breaks on It Never Entered My Head, a lyrical performance. Life and Death is a lovely piece and a new discovery for me.
Composed by Michael Giacchino it features Harrington and Mulligan but the
other quartet members sit out and are replaced by two string players,
cellist Eleanor Norton and guitarist Ric Molina. The keening cello and
tremolandi effects prove affecting in this fragile and tender reading.
Harrington unveils hints of folkloric fiddling in U2’s With or Without You and with Eleanor Norton still on board and
volunteering some rock guitar cello, things heat up. Naturally there’s some
insinuating Piazzolla in a lyrical but sinuously reserved version of Oblivion as well as a languid, elegant Caruso. I also
liked the spaces between the notes in this version of When I Fall In Love where Mulligan is at his funkiest.
This is an enjoyable 47-minute disc, with a fine variety of tunes and –
Lord preserve us – no originals. Harrington’s only real fault as a jazz
player is a tendency to unleash little virtuosic runs and curlicues that
reflect a classical response rather than an improviser’s solution. His
playing is oriented more to Grappelli and Eddie South than to Stuff Smith
but there’s nothing wrong with that in my book.