Jazz Mask, Harrison's Soul Book
Ron Scott | 1/7/2021, midnight
To be a successful photographer their image has to pull you into the mix like a musician’s music burns your soul. Farber’s photographs place you in the moment whether it’s on stage or backstage or in the audience feeling the soulful rhythms of your favorite musician. Of her thousands of photographs “A Gathering of the Elders” is by far the most endearing for me. It features the music’s influential innovators: Candid, Lionel Hampton, Randy Weston, Dr. Billy Taylor and Al Grey (Jazziz 2003 elders roundtable). The photo of Amiri Baraka and the collage of Roy and Craig Haynes with Mulgrew Miller and George Wein at the MOMA gala capture the essence of these great artists.
Some of Farber’s classic jazz images were selected for filmmaker Ken Burns’ historic 20-hour documentary on jazz aired on PBS in January 2001 and companion book. In the book, Bums acknowledges Farber, the sole female amongst 14 legendary male photographers, as a member of “an extraordinary group of the finest jazz art photographers in the country.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on and the shutdown of jazz clubs and concert halls throughout NYC, Farber had to resort to more creative measures outside of her lens shutter.
“From one terrible life-changing, world-changing routine-destroying moment in history, I decided to try designing some of my own masks from a few popular and iconic images, and having them printed on cloth material,” said Farber. “I received my samples and upon wearing them, found myself on the receiving end of those inquiries of strangers asking, where did I get my mask? So, I decided to offer them to friends and family and the response motivated me to make them available more widely for not much more than the cost of printing and producing.”
The masks come in two styles: pleated cloth mask and a quilted soft cloth that comes in three sizes. Mask options include The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sun Ra, Wynton and Branford Marsalis and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as many vintage images on the website of musicians from reggae, world, blues and other genres. Another format for purchasing her work is musician greeting cards hand-painted images, at enidfarber.com. All the images are from Farber’s extensive archive of photographs, taken in a variety of locations between 1982 and 2014. Masks are $22.
The female jazz vocalist category has always been extremely competitive but Lezlie Harrison since jumping into the pool made it quite evident she is a contender. Harrison has an enticing voice that immediately captures your attention like a Sonny Rollins solo. Her mesmerizing voice is the reason she is a regular on Newark’s WBGO-FM all jazz radio.
During this pandemic Harrison was able to put the final touches on her latest album “Soul Book, Vol. 1” that was released in October. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing rage of COVID-19 Harrison wasn’t able to get the usual amenities that accompany new releases such as a big album party (at the Jazz Galley where she is the co-founder and board member) and promotional tour. The nine-track album is a large kettle of songs from the soul sounds of America. This is Harrison’s debut outing as a leader although she has appeared on other albums. “Soul Book” distinguishes her as a vocalist with a lasting power that will only ascend to great heights. Upon hearing the first note you are seduced into every song by Harrison’s smokey enchanting voice. For this outing Harrison went with a rather large ensemble with unique instrumentation: guitarist Saul Rubin, organist Ben Paterson, vibraphonist Monte Croft, saxophonist Rueben Fox, trombonists Frank Lacy and Isaac Kaplan, drummer Russell Carter and trumpeter Antoine Drye, arranger on “I Want You.”
It’s very rare after listening to an album at least one cut doesn’t pop out as a favorite. “Soul Book” is a treasure of nine gems of inspired love to be shared. Harrison takes Bill Withers’ song “Ain’t No Sunshine” and reconstructs it into a mid-tempo reggae swing with Paterson’s organ and Lacey’s trombone thumping that Rasta man melody. The funk comes in on “If Loving You Is Wrong,” the organ preaches on with pleading responses from guitarist Rubin and Lacey’s trombone. “For All We Know,” a cry in your teacup ballad, releases Harrison’s organic stylings of phrasing, space and pronunciation. Fox’s saxophone lead is heart-piercing with whispers from guitar, Carter’s brushes and Paterson. She shows reminisces of Shirly Horn. The brass section is glaring on Marvin Gaye’s hit “I Want You.” Who would guess the vocalist transformed it into a hot salsa tune, bya baby bya. Everyone is mean on this one, the guitarist trumpeter, trombones and outrageous drum solo with cowbells. Her rendition of “Lately,” a Stevie Wonder composition, will make your heart flutter and the band simply magical.
Harrison understands singing 101, tell the story. She tells the story from a soulful experience dating back to her parents playing soul, R&B and jazz in her house. Of course, growing up in New York City, Latin music was automatically part of the landscape. Her being the granddaughter of a preacher it’s not surprising that she closed the album with “Somebody Prayed for Me.” Which is a most apropos ending, battling COVID-19, civil unrest and democracy against the wall, we can all use a good prayer from someone.
It takes a special vocalist to take songs from iconic singers and turn them into your own, but that is the stylings, storytelling and soulful magnetism of Harrison. To purchase “Soul Book, Vol. 1” visit her website at https://lezlieharrison.bandcamp.com/album/lezlie-harrison-soul-book-vol-1/.