Through The Night / Cosmo (Downtown/Tzadik)
It could be said that Jesse Harris’ new album Through The Night – his ninth full-length release – harkens back in spirit and tone to one of his earlier albums, 2001’s Crooked Lines, a home-recorded effort made before the hoopla of mainstream attention and a 2003 major label debut on Verve / Universal. Through The Night, however, is anything but a home recording; co-produced, recorded and mixed in 14 straight days by the legendary Terry Manning at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, The Bahamas, it features a quartet of Bill Dobrow (Martha Wainwright, Sean Lennon) on drums, Mauro Refosco (Atoms For Peace, David Byrne, Forro In The Dark) on percussion, Guilherme Monteiro (Bebel Gilberto, Forro In The Dark) on bass, and Jesse Harris on electric and acoustic guitar and, for the first time, piano, wurlitzer and Hammond B3 organ.
Through The Night is not an accidental title: “The songs depict dreams, romance, and mystery against the backdrop of moon, stars, and sometimes chaos,” Harris says. “I wanted to explore the theme of night in different scenarios, from peaceful Rousseau-esque fantasies to sleepless nights of obsession.”
From the opening rock number “Put It Out Of Your Mind” to the Caetano Veloso-influenced “Pixote” to the folkish “Gone Without A Sound,” the 14 tracks on Through The Night compel the listener across a wide range of musical styles while maintaining a thematic cohesion of sound and text.
Cosmo is Jesse Harris’ first full length instrumental album, but it is not his first time recording instrumental music. Two of Jesse’s previous albums, Watching The Sky and Mineral, contain two instrumentals each, and Harris also composed the score for the 2007 Ethan Hawke film, the Hottest State. “Making an album of all instrumentals is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I never felt I had the proper scenario to justify it, until this past Fall of ’09 when John Zorn invited me to make an album for Tzadik. That gave me the push I needed.”
Half of the album’s 12 tracks are new instrumental compositions and half are versions of previously recorded Harris songs. “I wanted the sound to be warm and mellow, with brass and organ, and of course I had to have Kenny Wollesen, my old friend, behind the drum kit and on vibes and marimba.” Other musicians on Cosmo include Rob Burger, CJ Camerieri, Eivind Opsvik, and special guests Tony Scherr, and Doug Wieselman.
The group, which now goes under the appellation of the Cosmo Band, made its debut performance for a packed room at the Brooklyn club Zebulon in September. “It was strange at first to have no vocal mic, nor to be accompanying another singer,” says Harris, “but I got used to it quickly and had a blast. In the future I may sing one or two songs a set, but we’ll see.”
The music conjures up images, almost as if it were the score to a film that doesn’t exist, so it’s no surprise how comfortably the opening track “Little Star” fits behind the digital films of Harris’ girlfriend Hannah Cohen, which he edited himself using iMovie into a gorgeous video for the song.
Blending folk, soul, Brazilian and rock music, Cosmo is instrumental pop in the classic tradition of Burt Bacharach – with Harris’ indelible stamp.
Dec 10 – 2010 Brooklyn, NY @ Zebulon Jesse Harris and the Cosmo band
Dec 12 – 2010 New York, NY @ Rockwood Music Hall
Feb 8 New York, NY @ The Stone Jesse Harris and the Cosmo band