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Biography: Guest Musicians: Earl Harvin: New Times LA Article

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Nightstick
By Robert Wilonsky, Alec Hanley Bemis, Kirk Silsbee, Sam Molineaux, Jeff Niesel and Franklin Bruno

This Week
June 11-17 (1999)

Earl Harvin Trio
At first, it seemed relatively easy to classify Earl Harvin--jazzer first, punk second, sideman-for-hire only when his schedule allowed it. For a time, he was this close to achieving some sort of fame as the drummer in Seal's band, but something was never quite right with the picture. Harvin looked out of place--a dreadlocked and landlocked prop whose own particular genius was lost beneath so much big-money spit and polish. If only Warner Bros. had been wise enough to listen to Harvin's first two records he cut for the ambitious Dallas-based jazz indie Leaning House, Earl Harvin Trio/Quartet in 1995 and Strange Happy (credited to Harvin and pianist Dave Palmer) in 1997. Perhaps then the label's executives would have known what a true waste it was that Harvin was just playing with Seal--like a typhoon playing second fiddle to a slight breeze.

To refer to the just-released Earl Harvin Trio at the Gypsy Tea Room, also out on Leaning House Records, as Harvin's third record as bandleader somehow diminishes its results. The two-disc collection sounds as though it were made by a different band, even though keyboardist Dave Palmer and bassist Fred Hamilton once more appear. It's a sprawling, exhilarating, dazzling, jocular, and utterly out record: "Free jazz" only because what the hell else do you call it? It soars to a place jazz hasn't visited since the early 1970s--when old-timers began lamenting the death of their music.

Not long into the 24-plus minutes of "What I Want to Do to You" (originally the bop leadoff track on Strange Happy, rendered unrecognizable in its current incarnation), Palmer suddenly, inexplicably, breaks into a few bars of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." But it's a momentary respite: Palmer cuts loose again, absconding deep into the final funk frontier while Harvin keeps him grounded, laying down a beat like landing lights. Finally, the track dissolves into ambient beats and trancelike rhythms, until you half expect Tricky to come out from behind the curtains and gravel-growl over the track. Every song on the new record's like this, sort of--intimate and whispered one second, consuming and enormous the next. This ain't just a record; it's a lifestyle.

When the disc is written about in rock magazines, there will no doubt be comparisons to early Weather Report, Live-Evil-era Miles Davis, and Keith Jarrett, not to mention Tricky and Spiritualized and its prog-rock progenitors. They're all fair game. Gypsy Tea Room, which gives you a good idea of what Harvin is like live, is what happens when jazzers raised on rock decide to cut loose from history, kiss tradition goodbye, and move directly into a dazzling, unknown future. Thu.-Fri., June 17-18, at the Mint, 6010 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (Robert Wilonsky)
From: New Times LA

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