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The Ken Harper Trio creates organic rhythms at Irene's

Rob Graves and Ken Harper inspired each other into extra invention and intensity ©2016 Brett Delmage

The Ken Harper Trio with guest Rob Graves
Irene's Pub
Sunday, January 17, 2016 – 9 p.m.

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Ottawa jazz drummer Ken Harper is leading his trio in a month of Sundays at Irene's this month – with different guests and a different sound each week.

OttawaJazzScene.ca caught up with Harper on January 17, his third of five evenings, when he played with percussionist Rob Graves and the other members of his trio: Alex Moxon on guitar and effects, and Mark Fraser on double bass.

It was an evening of surprising textures and varied rhythms, as Graves and Harper inspired each other into extra invention and intensity. They opened with an impromptu and extended improvised piece, with drums and congas in deep conversation while Fraser added melodic riffs on bass. It grabbed the audience's attention with its almost hypnotic feel.

Graves played (in Moxon's words) “everything” – two congas, a small double drum, another hand drum, a cow-bell, a triangle, a string of bells, a clave, a small cymbal, various shakers, and possibly a few more instruments which we missed. He constantly switched among instruments, responding to the other musicians.

Most of the show featured jazz classics: Dizzy Gillespie's “Night in Tunisia”, Duke Ellington's “Caravan”, and a soft, sensual version of Horace Silver's “Cape Verdean Blues”, among them. The group added in several blues, and ended with a Stevie Wonder number. A noticeable Afro-Cuban feel informed much of the music, as well as a strong collaborative feel. “Sunny”, for example, featured bright notes on triangle from Graves accenting a grooving melody on guitar from Moxon, followed by an inflected bass solo, and then a strong drums/percussion duet aka duel.

Particularly impressive was a slower number, Bill Frisell's “Strange Meeting”, with thoughtful solos from each band member.

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