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Published: 2004/02/26
by Pat Buzby

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

after 9/11/01.)

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."

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