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Harvie S/Sheryl Bailey: Plucky Strum

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Its fanciful title-guitarist Sheryl Bailey strums, bassist Harvie S plucks-may imply whimsy, but the melodic intricacy created by the duo on this all-originals outing (four by him, six by her) is some seriously heady stuff. Bailey and S never drop the ball-something ear-catching is always happening here, even during the quietest, most reflective moments. “Broken Glass,” carried over from Bailey’s 2014 organ trio recording A Meeting of Minds, takes turns both somber and sweet, the guitarist’s crystalline, precise picking complementary to S’s deep-diving at the top of the neck. On “Charlie Haden,” each player mirrors the other’s path intently, their closely mic’d string action and slightly askew harmonics suggestive of the intimacy the song’s namesake brought to his performances.

Bailey in particular is a revelation. A veteran of several different configurations, her fluidity of style is impressive, her agility uncommon. On no two tunes here does she repeat herself: If there is a thread it’s in her mastery of texture and tone, and her technique is imposing without being flashy. “Bluzin’ F” is a basic walking blues, but the guitarist tucks in subtle Django-isms and fortuitous chord shifts that elevate it; on “S and S,” which Bailey based on “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the two chase each other like a cartoon cat and mouse-teasing, toying, hiding and running in circles. “For Jimmy” (that being Jimmy Wyble, late guitarist) finds Bailey taking more of a support role to S’s magnificently rich, free-range roaming. Despite the complexity that’s never far from the surface, Plucky Strum feels deceptively simple.

Originally Published