On the surface, putting together a duo album seems like a pretty straight-ahead idea: you get some tunes together and head to the studio. All too often though, the mojo that keeps a duo album from going stale runs out. Without the collaboration that comes with putting together four or five players in a room, melodic lines float about unanswered and the comping of the guitar can become labored. The energy and spontaneous creativity that is needed to breathe life into the album deflates. Flights: Volume One is not such an album.
Guitarist Sean Harkness and Trumpeter Mike Herriott put on an audible clinic of deft collaboration. Responsive to each other’s every musical thought, Flights: Volume One is a must-listen album of carefully crafted, new music. Harkness and Herriott’s first collaboration, Flights: Volume One, was recorded in both New York and Toronto, cities which both artists attribute as playing an important role in setting the tone for the album. From the straight-ahead jam, “Gambled,” to the album’s dream-evoking closer “Hammock Time,” Flights: Volume One runs the gamut of jazz stylings.
Not all the tunes on this album are duets (although I found the best material on the album to be the five charts that were simply guitar and horn). The album’s opener, “Spring Break,” brings the bass playing of Jim Vivian and the drumming of Kevin Coady. Propelled by a quick Latin bass groove that is peppered with a six-bar, half-time, funk interlude, “Spring Break” quickly sets an attitude of tight harmonic motion and clean improvisation. Some of the most outstanding guitar work on the album is featured in the album’s second track, “Leap Year.” Guitarist Sean Harkness furnishes the track with a rich harmonic pallet in which he simultaneously mixes improvisation, muted guitar licks, and gritty slap bass lines to provide a complex texture of accompaniment.
The warm and inviting tone of Mike Herriott’s flugelhorn on “Hedge Your Bets” is well -controlled, with close attention paid to not over-extend this traditionally mellow instrument. Throughout, Herriott is pushing just enough to get an edge, but not too much to seem tacky or melodramatic. Both guitar and horn work very hard to compliment each other’s sounds, and on this track, it really shows.
I very much look forward to the next flight by these two immensely talented musicians. Flights: Volume One is definitely an album worthy of heavy rotation in your jazz listening library. Tracks to listen to: “Leap Year,” “Myffed,” “Hedge Your Bets,” and “And Lost...”