Once Upon a Mind
Jazz guitarist Colter Harper has been spotted in a number of settings around town: in a duo with vocalist Carolyn Perteete; backing Phat Man Dee; sitting in with Opek; and leading a number of groups, including an organ trio. For Once Upon a Mind, he enlisted a revolving cast of local musicians to play 11 of his own compositions. The results are subtle -- this is no straight blowing session -- but the melodies and tonal colorings have plenty to offer.
One of the striking things about this album is that Harper comes off as a player interested in ensemble work and texture rather than simply looking for a backing band. In fact, it takes three songs before he stretches out with his own solo. Several tracks feature vibes or accordion on the frontline with the guitar; the latter instrument adds a romantic feel to pieces like "Dark Days," recorded both with a quintet and as an album-closing duet with accordionist Mike Murray. Tracks like this evoke European folk musics as much as jazz stylings, and the combination works.
Murray's Fender Rhodes trades licks with the guitar on "Black Volta," while drummer Dave Throckmorton ensures the groove kicks hard. Everyone gets solo time on the title track, including Throckmorton, who keeps his thunderous attack under wraps without abandoning his creative ways of twisting rhythm.
Pittsburgh has always been loyal to its homegrown jazz players. Hopefully the town will tune in for Colter Harper's thoughtful new ideas.
Colter Harper 8 p.m. Thu., May 10. Gullifty's, 1922 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. Free. 412-521-8222. Also 8:30 p.m. Tue., May 15. Backstage Bar, Downtown. Free. 412-471-6070