Approximately 23 years ago, Harvie S received a telephone call asking if he would be willing to play bass for a new, young musician performing at the JVC. Harvie has always been in demand both here and abroad, and he accepted the offer.
The festival went off without a hitch and over the following months, that young musician, pianist Bill Charlap, and Harvie S became friends. And as friends and musicians, they did what came naturally, played their instruments, jammed together and explored mutual, musical possibilities.
Charlap had introduced Todd Strait (drums) to Harvie and as luck would have it, Harvie had some studio time and suggested they go in and lay down some tracks. Discussions regarding what songs to play and a brief rehearsal ensued. Then history was made, although they didn’t realize it at the time.
Harvie S, being the oldest of the three, put this trio together and produced this CD. Bill Charlap was only 20-years old, and Todd Strait was 26. The remarkable thing is this studio session was probably the very first recording ever made of Charlap who is now considered to be one of the best jazz pianists of his generation.
Too Late Now is almost an inappropriate title for this Harvie S Trio CD because it is never too late for truly exceptional jazz…and that is exactly what this is, exceptional from start to finish. It is however, the title song included in the nine tracks of the album.
Within the first ten notes of the beginning track, an unbelievably tight, up-tempo Franz Lehar tune, “Yours is My Heart Alone,” you understand immediately there is something going on beyond piano, bass and drums. There are no egos here, just a solid stream of honest interplay between three outstanding musicians. And what’s even more astounding is the trio sounds like they are seasoned veterans who have been playing together for years, yet their energy and simpatico is so fresh and new. Perhaps that’s the secret. In any event, this opener is phenomenal, the best of the CD.
Song placement is so important in the ebb and flow of an album, that’s why Van Heusen’s “Darn That Dream” is a beautiful choice for second position. Its dreamy gentleness allows the listener to catch their breath after the opening number. Other selections include Burton Lane’s “Too Late Now,” the extremely rare Oliver Nelson’s “111-44,” and Juan Tizol’s “Perdido.”
The sixth spot is one of Harvie’s own compositions, “Take Your Time.” Anyone that is familiar with Harvie S. can always count on his originals being A-1. This particular song, among my favorites of the album, is a sexy, little, swinging romp sans 50s style, that showcases the trio’s playfulness. Todd’s rhythmic patterns fit so perfectly, lending this song its hip attitude.
An outstanding arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Miyako” is stunning with Harvie offering a brilliant solo on bass and Charlap is fantastic throughout. John Lewis’ “Afternoon in Paris,” an infrequently performed number is esoteric at first blush, with tasty changes mid-way that has your foot tapping until the ending note. The final dish is the Jack Strachey/Harry Link song “These Foolish Things.” After listening to the full meal, this soft and familiar tune is the perfect dessert.
After finally releasing this 1988 recording session, one that Harvie thought might never get released, I asked Harvie what he thought about doing a present day follow-up to this CD with Charlap and Strait. His reply, “Wouldn’t Mind.” Certainly after listening to this brilliant piece of work, listeners might agree.
The CD is offered for sale online at CD Universe for a staggering price of $47.65 or should you speak Japanese, through onkyodirect.jp for 2,500 yen. While the price is unrealistic, for the avid collector, this CD would be a gem for their library. Three amazing and talented artists captured 23 years ago…a rare and amazing listen. Hopefully, the CD will expand its purchase capabilities and will be offered at a lower price at other web-based music locations in the future.
In the meantime, Harvie S and Bill Charlap will be playing at New York’s 92nd Street Y in July 2011 with a tribute to the music of Dave Brubeck. Harvie is also scheduled for a May 2011 tour to Russia with James Weidman (from the Joe Lovano Group). Also look for Harvie’s upcoming performance with the Westchester Jazz Orchestra in tribute to Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, and a future CD with guitarist Jake Hertzog, which Harvie played on and produced. March 6-13 Harvie will be on tour with Tim Armacost, Gene Jackson and David Berkman in the Midwest with the New York Standards Quartet.