Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sheryl Bailey & Harvie S - Plucky Strum: Departure (2017)

In 2015, guitarist Sheryl Bailey & Harvie S made a delightful duet record they called Plucky Strum that ended up being a favorite jazz release of mine for that year. And the reason was simple: no stunts, no gimmicks, just sublime interplay, polished artistry and bright melodicism. By those measures this was a fantastically successful collaboration.

Bailey and S must have thought so, too, because two years later they are back with another set of performances together with Departure, now on sale via Whaling City Sound. Again, there are no tricks up their sleeves and Departure is a straight-up continuation of Plucky Strum. When something works so well, there’s no need to change a thing.

Well, they did do something different by including a couple of covers to go along with originals from each of the players, but more on those pair of tunes in a bit. That precise sense of swing we raved on about on the first album is the first thing that jumps out on the second one: a jumpin’, unison bop line kicks off Harvie S’s “Sublime,” and after that splashy intro, Harvie gets to work on bass walk as Bailey peels off a solo that’s Barney Kessel good. She then trades fours with Harvie that offers just a hint of what a lyrical soloist the master bassist is.

Other swing numbers such as “What She Said” and “The Good Old Days” are also right in their wheelhouse, the former a classic-sounding bop, and the two have such a good swing going on, drums couldn’t add anything more to it. Bailey, again on electric guitar, plays with such bounce and verve, and goes into a synergistic co-solo with Harvie.

Bailey goes acoustic for her “Old and Young Blues” which is more of a melancholy folk tune than a blues number, and here we get more of Harvie’s rhapsodic expressions on bass when he takes the lead. “Cranshaw,” presumably a paean from both to the late bassist Bob Cranshaw who passed away this past November, is underpinned by Harvie’s catlike bass line with double stops around which Bailey deftly weaves with a slightly psychedelic guitar.

There might not be a better appreciate their teamwork than on their faultless cover of the Crosby, Stills & Nash classic song “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” Bailey and Harvie trade off so naturally on the lyric parts while holding down the ever-changing harmony with nothing left behind. At one point (the “Friday evening” part), Harvie replicates the singing part convincingly with his bow and on the next section Bailey solos splendidly. The only other non-original is a Joni Mitchell deep cut, the title song from her The Hissing of Summer Lawns LP. Bailey on electric digs deep into the esoteric melody and dubs over a tasty lead in the solo break.

“Alone” brings the album to a soft landing, a tender ballad from Bailey, her warm acoustic reinforced ever so subtly by Harvie.

Overall though, Departure is no departure from what Sheryl Bailey and Harvie S have been doing so well together, which makes their second disc a very pleasurable listen like the first.