Friday, August 19, 2005

Power Trio

Tonight was a rare treat, musically speaking. If the Earl Harvin Trio is performing in the area, I'm going to move heaven and earth to try and get out and see them. Thankfully, all it took today was a quick trip downtown.

The trio features Harvin, a UNT alumnus and former member of the One O'Clock Lab Band drummer (Lab '88) who's also toured extensively with Seal and The The; Dave Palmer, another NT alum, on keyboard (usually a Rhodes, but tonight he was playing a white Yamaha upright); and Fred Hamilton, the UNT jazz guitar professor who's also an outstanding bass player (he plays both in the trio). Once Palmer integrated the Rhodes into their live performances, the group moved beyond the simple profile of a jazz trio and into the "beyond category" description...unless the category is "great music," and then you're right on the money. Sure, they play plenty of straight-ahead sounding tunes, but they're also into extended jams (the "final chord" of their closing tune last September lasted a good ten minutes) and otherworldly sounds.

In a recent profile in the UNT alumni magazine, The North Texan, Harvin noted that the only reason the trio bears his name is because he was "the only consistent member" of a pool of around ten people, but his drumming is a huge part of the group's unique sound. While his playing could be described as "busy," that statement is meant in the best possible way; perhaps "intricate" is a better description, and "extremely tasty" needs to go in there as well. He's been known to double the melody on a tune, and he uses every part of the kit at some time or another, coming up with some very distinctive sounds in the process.

Tonight's gig was at the Dallas Museum of Art as part of a "Late Night Friday" series that happens monthly (sponsored by Starbucks, as the emcee reminded us about 47 times). The fact that Palmer was on acoustic piano added a new twist to the group's sound all by itself. He also had what appeared to be a very small computer of sorts atop the piano, which generated some interesting sequences on a totally-improvised number halfway through the show. Only afterwards did we find out what the device was: a Game Boy! There's a company in Germany that makes a little cartridge that goes into the Game Boy and produces sequences using the unit's own sounds, and Dave decided that would be a perfect accompaniment to the modern art hanging in the atrium.

The only downside of the show was that it was so short. I'm used to the trio's gigs at the Gypsy Tea Room, where the sets last for hours on end. Tonight was a tight, hourlong show that only whetted our appetites...but it'll do for now. In the meantime, there's a live DVD that's on the way, the release of which I'll be sure and make note on here.

We didn't venture into any of the side corridors, but I was quite impressed with the DMA itself. I'd been to plenty of the summer outdoor concerts before (including the Branford show last summer), but this was my first time inside the building, and I had no idea how deep and wide the whole complex really was. It definitely merits revisiting when there's more time.

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