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  • Jonathan Widran

CAL HARRIS JR., "Bridges"

The son of Grammy nominated sound engineer Calvin Harris, versatile keyboardist/composer Cal Harris Jr. had the magic in his DNA from the start, absorbing the vibes of Motown greats like the Tempations and Commodores and eventually translating those into his own stellar career behind the scenes, working with R&B royalty like Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince, Whitney Houston and Beyonce.

Several years after launching a now thriving solo career with his debut album Inside Out, Harris became a chart-topping force in contemporary urban jazz with the singles “Timeless” and “Soulful” from his 2019 collection Soulful. Harris’ latest infectious and grooving showcase for his sparkling piano and Fender Rhodes “Bridges” finds him sharing a journey that’s buoyant, tight and funky (and horn-fired at key punchy moments!) yet also at certain moments calm sensual and contemplative.

There’s a good reason for the unique dynamics and mood swings. The most insightful and intuitive artists, even the instrumentalists, find ways to he reflect the times in which they live – and Harris definitely on that track here, using his senses of melody, harmony, rhythm and atmosphere to convey his thoughts on the unsettling social, racial and political ramifications of current events.

Though certainly, the music can be enjoyed and appreciated on its own merits as a kick-ass soul/funk jam, the “Bridges” Harris refers to are the challenges we face trying to understand diverse viewpoints and find ways to co-exist with others who may see the world differently. The track starts with the many facets of his piano virtuosity, moving back forth from fluidly mellow to more intense and improvisational and back again.

Just when we think we’ve got his sound pegged and feel we know where he’s taking us, he throws in a surreal Rhodes solo – and then another later – to keep reminding us that life is full of fascinating detours and challenges. These snappy shifts from piano to Rhodes make this one sound like the best Jeff Lorber tune Lorber never wrote!


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