By Jim Lowe Times Argus Arts Editor Vermont jazz master James Harvey’s new album, “Grateful,” sets the stage with its first cut, “House of Gold.” The upbeat brassy number, very Latin in flavor, features fine throaty trombone work by Harvey and expert virtuoso electric guitar by Trey Anastasio. It’s just real high-quality playing throughout. Thus begins a very personal – and musically rewarding – romp through today’s jazz styles. Harvey will be performing Friday, May 17, at Montpelier’s Bethany Church, with the James Harvey Trio – Harvey on piano, Gabe Jarrett on drums, and John Rivers on bass – as part of the Green Mountain Jazz Series. Harvey is one of Vermont’s foremost jazz musicians, and one of its most interesting, performing ably on piano and trombone. The Duxbury native, now living in Burlington, was for a time part of the San Francisco jazz scene. Harvey’s place in the Vermont music world is indicated by the high quality of his collaborators in this album. Besides Anastasio and Rivers, they include Peter Apfelbaum and Dave Grippo on saxophones, Tom Smith on rhythm guitar, Rivers on bass, Stacy Starkweather on electric bass, and Jeff Salisbury on drums. Still, it is Harvey’s inventiveness and charismatic musicality that makes this album of original music so exciting. “Red Ribbon,” the most interesting selection, pushes the jazz envelope. Harvey’s solo piano is very free-form, harmonically quite daring, with a freedom not usually heard in this type of music. This is then joined by Grippo’s haunting sax for a more traditional ballad. Refinement isn’t what this album is about, but it is about real music-making. In “Down the Drain,” a driving brassy upbeat dance number, the feeling is all there, and the playing is full of life. This is one of the selections that must have been created at the studio, with Harvey dubbing piano and trombone solos. What is amazing is how spontaneous it sounds. Another example of successful studio dubbing is “Grateful,” which opens with Harvey’s nice slow piano in a swing melody, quite beautiful, joined by Harvey’s own trombone. The result is exquisite. Harvey is a very traditional jazz musician – but, using his imagination, he takes a pretty standard idea and form further, giving it his personal stamp. “Secret Smile,” a lamenting torch song, for solo piano with Rivers on bass, successfully makes Harvey’s poignant musical statement. This isn’t background music. “In Memory,” a solo piano number with bass and drums, is another example of how Harvey takes a traditional style, in the case a New Age ballad, and transcends the form. Rather than the usual “yuppie elevator music,” though, the result is original, beautiful, and genuinely endearing. It’s real tenderness. Much of the album is pretty brassy and upbeat in flavor, all the time colorful and full of imagination. “For the Losers” is almost honky-tonk; “Little Sisters” isn’t subtle, but it moves right along and takes you with it; and “Mirage” starts with a mellow trombone solo, but breaks out into all sorts of lively variations, including a hard-blowing solo sax. The album closes appropriately with a reprise of “House of Gold,” this time the full version. (The opening version is the radio cut.) This is one exciting album. The James Harvey Trio – Harvey, piano, Gabe Jarrett, drums, and John Rivers, bass, will perform, Friday, May 17 at 8 p.m., at Bethany Church, 115 Main St. in Montpelier, as part of the Green Mountain Jazz Series. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors and students; call 229-9408. “Grateful” is a private release album and is available at local music stores.

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