H2: MIKE HERRIOTT AND SEAN HARKNESS
FLIGHTS: VOL 1—Self Released.
Spring Break; Leap Year; Myfed; Nod To John; Kyra’s Song; Hedge Your Bets; Gambled; And Lost; Armario; Hammock Time
PERSONNEL: Mike Herriott, fugelhorn; Sean Harkness, guitar
By Ryan Prestone
The formation of H2 is a musical love story. Two veteran musicians are touring a show in Japan for six weeks and they hit it off. Back at the hotel they’re hanging out on their free time and they hit it off. A friendship ensues and they begin jamming together and discover that they are kindred spirits. Although I am just paraphrasing what I read, after listening to the music, it is clear that guitarist Sean Harkness and fugelhornist Mike Herriott belong on stage or in the studio together—you can cut the chemistry with a knife.
Both of them put beauty and feeling first. Their style, phrasing, and compositions are consistent throughout the record, but show such a variety of influences, from folk to funk and blues to jazz. These two musicians have a great time, and you can tell how much they are in love with the music they play, and playing with each other. You will be too—it is contagious. For the tunes that need that extra bit of groove, they enlist their more than qualified friends, drummer Kevin Coady, bassist Jim Vivian, and trombonist Mark Miller.
Harkness is a technical virtuoso with his fingerstyle approach that brings together elements of both a Joe Pass style as well as steel string players like Tommy Emmanuel. But he doesn’t use his skills arbitrarily—it is always in service to telling a story or creating a feeling or groove within the song. His playing is in a sense, simple, in that you don’t have to have a “refined ear” to appreciate what he is doing. His style transcends many genres and can touch listeners of many backgrounds. Amazingly, he plays a custom Gibson style guitar with .14 gauge strings (the thickness of the high E string). This is very thick, but he gets around the fretboard as if he were playing .10 gauge strings.
Herriott shares the same values as Harkness. He is extremely lyrical and has a beautiful tone. He has a graceful and easy approach to time, dancing on the beat with his gorgeous lines. Both players’ compositions create feelings and moods that you will want to revisit again and again. Flights is their first recording together—hopefully it isn’t their last.
68 September 2010 • Jazz Inside Monthly • www.jazzinsidemagazine.com