Thursday, July 31, 2008

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - "Sugar Cane's Got The Blues" CD

Finally released onto digital format after years of obscurity, this gem of an album is the result of a one-off 1971 Berlin Jazz Festival live collaboration between electric violinist Harris (known best for his work with John Lee Hooker and Frank Zappa, among others) and a band featuring members of the Soft Machine, as well as other jazz/rock fusion players from Germany, New Zealand, and Norway - so it's truly an international affair, and one that, at least on paper, shouldn't work.

The reality is, it does, and these stunningly powerful (and lengthy) tracks showcase the improvisational skill and melodic genius of Sugar Cane himself. The violin solo in the only cover here, Horace Silver's 'Song For My Father', is startling, and at the same time really quite beautiful.

That's not to overshadow the strong band assembled behind him, especially Wyatt's dexterous drumming (a good mix of both subtle finesse and pure sinew), or the lilting, haunting guitarwork of Terje Rypdal (on 'Song For My Father'). 'Where's My Sunshine' is a soulful melding of blues and jazz, and also works wonderfully.

The technical aspects of most jazz can undoubtably be daunting to the inexperienced listener, but 'Sugar Cane's Got The Blues' is a recording that doesn't sound clinical and studied. It's free and loose, and ultimately emotive. I can draw a parallel to stuff like Can in spots, as that German act also closed the gaps between free jazz, avante rock, and more experimental inspirations. Sugar Cane was definitely ON in Berlin this night, and the recording is as timeless and they come. Wow. (Promising Music/SPV Germany)

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