Hermine Deurloo is a virtuoso harmonica player and here she combines with some legends of the jazz world (Steve Gadd on drums, Tony Scherr on the bass and guitar with Kevin Hays on piano and keyboards) to make a mixture of easy-listening and light pop with just enough jazz to keep it interesting.
I love this album actually – but I’m aware that it might not be at all cool to say so (not sure when that has ever mattered). One of the things I love is Deurloo’s playing, her tone, her touch, the control, the breath, the feel – that’s (almost) a given. But also this album was written for this group, Deurloo has created several of the songs with Gadd’s unique touch and style in mind. Take the title song for instance. It’s almost Steely Dan-esque in its bounce – even if Deurloo states the melody more like Acker Bilk might. There’s a charm to the naff-ness and something naff, perhaps, about the overall charm of this – but it’s certainly the case that Gadd gets to do what he does without ever showing off at all. He’s super subtle here and unmistakable in those moments of, the Cajun soul-funk of Zombie Chicken, the jazz-funk strut of Hoop and Pole.
Scherr and Hays are great players too of course and they do their bits, play their parts with aplomb. But really this is about Deurloo’s control and craft, her grasp of an instrument that is a head-scratcher for many.
The obvious name to drop is Toots Thielemans and of course there are moments where his dizzying skill is evoked, absolutely (Walk With Me). But Deurloo has her own voice. And maybe the music’s Bob James-meets-Bert Kaempfert ‘lightness’ will rule it out for many straight away but I’m an old ham that loves this stuff. And the virtuosity on display here is never in the way of gentle, warm, calm and controlled melodies. To me this is a wee gem, well worth leaning in towards.
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