H2 (SEAN HARKNESS & MIKE HERRIOTT)
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Opening Day Entertainment Group
-review by Rob Lester for TalkinBroadway.com
Highly visible Sean Harkness is the guitarist of choice for a staggering number of NYC cabaret singers, his Bistro Award as outstanding instrumentalist and the MAC Award for his own debut as a solo artist in clubs and nominated for his prior CD with flugelhorn-playing colleague Mike Herriott nominated, too, I am happy to find they have just issued a Christmas album. When working together, they call themselves H2 (H-squared). Their Christmas collaboration is especially satisfying. It’s not just that both play with taste and distinction, but they are respectful of the 10 traditional and sacred songs included without ever seeming creatively intimidated. And their snuggled-into renditions of “Christmas Time Is Here” and the melody that gives the CD its title (appealingly given a chill pill from its usual pep rally-ing cry) work quite well, too.
It’s quite the accomplishment that they can approach one melody conservatively and take another, like “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” and loosen its formal, reverent architecture to seduce it into loose jazz sensibilities and make it feel just as at home for the holidays. They play with overlapping lines and phrases, answering each other or staying in a unison approach, to make it all feel right in the same number (“O Tanenbaum”) and then branch out with new growth but not losing the thread. “Carol of the Bells,” not what one might expect a duo of this sort to tackle, is aced as a showpiece that builds without the approximating of the dizzying ding-dong that would be cheap frenzy.
While the interactive work is compelling, solo times never “time out” on the interest scale. Striking and haunting is the special studio mixing of the dreamlike brass sounds for “Meditation on ‘Lo, How E’er Rose Blooming'” and it stays in the mind. On the Harkness “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” the guitar does seem to sing and rejoice.
Home for the Holidays brings so much to the table beyond holiday evocation that I daresay it could find a home in CD players, iPods, etc. during non-holiday time. The mind may say “December,” but appreciative ears know no season.