…with PCJ since 2010
This Butch Harrison CD is a perfect example of how misleading first impressions can be when it comes to music. What It Is gets off to a post-bop start with the opener “Butch’s Blues,” a straight-ahead jazz instrumental that gives Harrison a chance to stretch out on trumpet (Freddie Hubbard andLee Morgan are influences on Harrison’s trumpet solos, and there are hints of Miles Davis when he uses a mute). If “Butch’s Blues” is the listener’s introduction to Harrison, it’s easy to assume that he/she is getting an album of instrumental jazz. But after that opener, Harrison shifts gears; everything that follows is vocal-oriented R&B, albeit with some jazz-tinged trumpet solos (Harrison also plays flügelhorn, trombone, and electric keyboards). None of the tunes that come after “Butch’s Blues” are instrumentals, and none of them are straight-ahead jazz. But if this 2010 release doesn’t have a lot to offer from a straight-ahead jazz standpoint, it’s generally decent from an R&B standpoint. Harrisongets a great deal of inspiration from the R&B of the ’70s and early ’80s; that era is clearly on his mind whether he is offering funk jams like “Party Over Here” and “Freak-N–You” or getting into a romantic quiet storm groove on “So Afraid of Love,” “Dreamin’,” and “When You Smile.” Actually, What It Is brings to mind the albums that artists like George Duke, Patrice Rushen, and George Benson were offering after they made the switch to R&B. Duke, Rushen, and Benson all started out as jazz instrumentalists and began selling a lot more records after they made vocal-oriented R&B their main focus, but even on their R&B albums, there were hints of their jazz backgrounds — and the same type of thing happens with Harrison on What It Is. Harrison, in other words, doesn’t necessarily put jazz out of his mind when he is singing R&B. But again, it’s important to remember that this is an R&B vocal album first and foremost — and while the disc is slightly uneven, there are more pros than cons on What It Is.
~ Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
Listen to Butch here:
BUY Butch’s music here: