Winter Dreams – Nancy Harrow
Artists House 00001
What is the New York musical environment about
these days? Mention it to most folks, and images of
garage rock revivalists and '80s-spawned, still-at-it
guitar debasers will materialize.
Nancy Harrow, though, has carved out a decidedly
different niche in the city. Her notes to Winter
Dreams inform us that a previous project became a
long-running, jazz-tinged puppet show at the Bleecker
Theater. This new effort, meanwhile, takes the life
and work of F. Scott Fitzgerald as its subject matter,
and evokes the early 20th century days when writers,
at the center of the cultural stage, slipped as easily
between NYC and Paris as musical ideas moved from
Broadway stages to jazz nightclubs. (Although Harrow
lets this go unnoted, it's rather poignant that the
recording date for this disc was less than two weeks
Harrow works the Broadway-jazz intersection as if the
last four or five decades hadn't happened, displaying
an intuitive sense of how to wrap clever lines around
an AABA 32-bar tune. Max, the name of Fitzgerald's
editor, proves easy to rhyme (tax, relax, and so
forth), while "boats against the current" makes Harrow
stretch a bit more (daren't, weren't). The songs are
instantly memorable, with "Until It Comes up Love"
being the standout for this reviewer.
As well, Harrow has assembled a professional,
thoroughly NYC-ified ensemble to deliver this music.
Grady Tate, eschewing his drumsticks for a spot as the
male lead, is Fitzgerald, while bassist Rufus Reid and
drummer Akira Tana drive the music and the late
pianist Roland Hanna serves as arranger.
Towards the end of the program, Fitzgerald bemoans
"My Lost City," and the NYC that this disc evokes is
thoroughly lost. For 40 minutes, though, Harrow
and company bring it back. As Tate sings to finish
out that song, "what a fantastic ride."