Source: DAN BILAWSKY / allaboutjazz
Two musicians, two acoustic string instruments, and ten original works recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, edits, or fixes of any sort. That's Plucky Strum in a nutshell, but that's also unfairly reductive in its explanation of the project. For when the two musicians under discussion are as special and seasoned as bassist Harvie S and guitarist Sheryl Bailey, even the simplest of concepts can turn into something special.
While neither of these players is a stranger to duo settings, Plucky Strum marks the first time that these two had the opportunity to record together as a twosome. The result? Beautifully unassuming music that shows both players to be engaging conversationalists, pillars of support, and strong writers.
The playlist for Plucky Strum is chock-full of dedications. "Woods Talk," which opens the album, and "S And S," a bop-based contrafact on "Sweet Georgia Brown," are nods to this musically woodworking duo; "For Jimmy," which has Bailey painting over some soothing arco bass at first sight, is the guitarist's tip of the hat to guitar great Jimmy Wyble; "Charlie Haden" speaks to the titular figure's melodic directness and ability to always choose the right notes; "Saint Nick," penned in praise of bassist Nikki Parrott, exhibits a strong sense of swing; and "To Bea," Harvie S' homage to his dearly departed mother, comes across as a cheerful celebration of life.
The remaining tracks, which are no less agreeable, aren't attached to any specific figure(s): "Bluzin' F" is exactly what is says it is, "Ghost Dancer" is a gently flowing piece in three with a haunting guitar introduction, "Broken Glass" is a bossa-ballad hybrid, and "Before"—written by Harvie S on September 10, 2001—ends the album on an mesmerizing and sorrowful note.
While both players get plenty of solo space throughout, there's nary a superfluous gesture or unnecessary phrase to be found on Plucky Strum. There's too much wisdom and experience between these two for them to fall into a showboating trap. Instead, musical acumen, unerring taste, and simpatico sensibilities carry the day.
Harvie S | acoustic bass
Sheryl Bailey | guitar
01. Woods Talk
02. Bluzin' F
03. Ghost Dancer
04. S And S
05. Broken Glass
06. To Bea
07. For Jimmy
08. Charlie Haden
09. Saint Nick
"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins