"Named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2010, Washington D.C. native Joel Harrison has long been recognized as a highly gifted guitarist, composer, arranger, vocalist and songwriter. A survey of Harrison’s body of work would be a bit like spinning a globe and stumbling on regions with names like Duke Ellington, Hendrix, The Beatles, John Mclaughlin, and Charles Ives. Wielding a focused lens and an ever-increasing courage to take risks with his art, Harrison has quickly blossomed from mentorships with Joan Tower, Ali Akbar Khan and Charlie Banacos into one of the most respected artists of his generation."
- From Joel's official website




Joel Harrison Official Website


RUNE 390


Guitarist/composer Joel Harrison melds influences from jazz, classical, country, rock, and world music. On 'Mother Stump', Harrison explores his past growing up in 1960's and 1970's Washington D.C., with its hugely inclusive and wide-ranging music offerings.

"Unlike a lot of my CDs, the focus here is on my playing and not so much on my writing and arranging. It’s a mixture of jazz, rock, Americana, and Soul with tunes by Luther Vandross, Buddy Miller, George Russell, a traditional spiritual, Paul Motian, Leonard Cohen, and a couple of my pieces. It’s a nod to my formative years, my roots as a guitarist in Washington D.C., with six old guitars and two old amps. It’s a lot of history that I’m trying to make new." - Joel Harrison

"In the liner notes,to this CD, guitarist Harrison extends on the quotes provided above. It's a good read. In the 1960s and 70s, Washington D.C. was a true musical melting pot and the young Harrison was exposed to an amazing variety of music. He was digging Jimi Hendrix and Yes but attending live concerts given by the likes of guitarists George Benson and Kenny Burrell, and taking jazz guitar lesson from older players who turned him on to the previous generation of jazz guitar giants such as Wes Montgomery.
The results of Harrison's eclectic education are conspicuously displayed in this brilliant recording. Because he is a composer and arranger as well as a player, he makes all the music on this CD his own, but selections range from earthy blues to soulful R&B and even cerebral chamber jazz. And while it is almost does Harrison a disservice to make comparisons (which might suggest that the CD is a kind of pastiche -- which it is decidedly NOT), Harrison is as sweet and lyrical as Bill Frisell, as funky as John Scofield, as ethereal as Terje Rypdal and as hardcore as Nels Cline at his wildest. There doesn't seem to be any modern guitar style that Harrison hasn't fully assimilated. He also has that intangible quality called "taste," which allows him to get inside whatever he plays, and always leaves the listener wanting just a bit more. His decision to include eleven songs, none of which clock in at much over eight minutes, is an excellent strategy, because it keeps him well away from the predictable repetition of stock phrases and flashy licks which are almost inevitable when guitarists revert to extended solos.
It's really hard for me to single out any favorites, but Harrison's moody, bittersweet ballad touch on Al Kooper's classic "I'll Love You More Than You'll ever Know" is absolutely sublime, while his version of avant garde jazz composer George Russell's "Stratusphunk" (an old favorite of mine from an early Gil Evans album, "Out of the Cool") is both delicate and dazzling -- as is his arrangement of jazz drummer Paul Motian's "Folk Song for Rosie.". (The looping and multi-tracking on the Motian tune displays yet another expressive dimension to Harrison's playing.) And his arrangement of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," a monochromatic tune chiefly esteemed for Cohen's poetry, is an example of his ability to coax every last bit of nuance out of fairly limited raw material.
Harrison is very ably assisted by his rhythm section -- Michael Bates on bass and Jeremy Clemons on drums -- and by Glenn Patsch's keyboards (especially Hammond B3) on six of the eleven tracks on the CD. Bates and Clemons are much more than rhythm-keepers, but rather than showing off their chops with extended solos, they weave in and out of the mix, providing textural counterpoint and further emotional depth to the music. This is clearly a working trio rather than just three capable musicians thrown together for a recording.
Fortunately, the recording quality of the CD is excellent, so every bent note, glissando, strum, deep bass throb and cymbal stroke can be fully savored and appreciated." – William Tilland

Mother Stump press release

Buy this album


RUNE 334


Holy Abyss is a collaborative effort between guitarist/composer Joel Harrison and bassist/composer Lorenzo Feliciati. Joining them are trumpeter Cuong Vu, Roy Powell on Hammond B-3 organ and piano, and Dan Weiss on drums.

A masterful electric jazz outing from five great players, this group personifies the worldwide nature of jazz today. Joel Harrison grew up in D.C., moved to the west coast in the late 80s and moved to New York City in the mid 90s where he still resides. Lorenzo Feliciati lives in Rome, Italy but travels the world and has collaborated with Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Bob Mitzer and Donovan and many others. Cuong Vu was born in Vietnam, lived for a number of years in New York City and made his name as a member of the Pat Metheny Group in the 2000s. He is currently a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Roy Powell is from England and resides in Norway, where he works in a wide range of music, including mainstream, jazz piano, avant-garde and electric, funky jazz. Dan Weiss lives in New York City where he has recorded with many of the brightest, upcoming names there.

Harrison and Weiss have played together for many years while Feliciati and Powell also are longtime allies. Vu has recorded and toured with Feliciati and Powell, so even though this is the first recording by these five musicians together, there is a lot of built in chemistry. All share a love of modern jazz that is devoid of stylistic limitations, inclusive of sounds from around the world, infused with electronics, odd meters, and deeply hued, uncommon timbres and tonal palettes.

There is a wonderful symbiosis between Harrison's and Vu's sounds. Both favor piercing, gorgeous tones mixed with raw, nasty electronics, and that sound, mixed with Powell’s piano and Hammond B-3, is at once jubilant and hallucinogenic, crackling with energy, and then gently subdued. Weiss delivers his signature mix of driving groove punctuated by pithy, unpredictable asides, and the ever-solid accompaniment on upright bass keeps everything grounded.

This is a marvelous program of modern, tasty, tuneful and occasionally haunting electric jazz, reminiscent of some aspects of classic electric ECM work of the 70s and 80s.

"The first impression of Holy Abyss is of its pristine sound. Each instrument sounds warm and fluid yet holds a separate space in the mix...Holy Abyss is a collaborative union that communicates at the highest levels of disciplined and intuitive musicianship; the complexities in these tunes are easy to underestimate by a casual listener, because these players make it all sound as if they were joining together for an informal jam session, rather than exploring the wildly sophisticated, expansive musical terrain they actually do." – Thom Jurek / AllMusic

Holy Abyss press release

Buy this album

For press and media: cover art and high resolution images are available below for download (click thumbnail, right-click image and select "Save As.."). Please credit the photographer (when available) and "Courtesy of Cuneiform Records". For more information, click here.

Mother Stump
Holy Abyss
Scroll for more photos and art from other albums

Mother Stump press release
Holy Abyss press release

1/21/2013: Happy 2013! MLK Day + 2012's Best + 2013's Tours
facebook twitter
Cuneiform Records 2014

Subscribe to Cuneiform's newsletter!