Joel Harrison

REVIEW: Joel Harrison, Anthony Pirog, Stephan Crump & Allison Miller “The Great Mirage”


Joel Harrison, Anthony Pirog, Stephan Crump & Allison Miller – The Great Mirage

These Washington, D.C. musicians have a common ancestral line musically. They enjoy in equal measure jazz, rock, fusion, avant-garde, folk, funk & country genres — but not separately. They take a needle & thread them into one fabric for quite a unique blended showcase.

A true collaboration between Mr. Harrison (electric & acoustic guitars/toy piano/Fender Rhodes/Tibetan bowls/Mellotron) & the unpredictable Pirog (electric & acoustic guitars/synth). Much the same as when ambient music pioneer Brian Eno teamed with progressive rock guitarist Robert Fripp in the 70s. It’s that eye-popping.

With this new 11-cut that runs 50-minutes The Great Mirage (Drops March 17–AGS Recordings) was composed & arranged by the team as a collage of heavy, light, loud & soft passages that comes deep in a groove, spikey & with absorbing guitar work. Joined by the excellent drums of Allison Miller (also synths) & Stephan Crump (electric bass guitar) the group goes down paths that explore modern jazz chord changes. There have been other guitar innovators in the past from Wes Montgomery to Howard Roberts & later Al DiMeola (Return To Forever – “Celebration Suite Parts 1 & 2”) – but this takes a different path.

Since a guitar is universal as a 6-12 string instrument the sound that’s created is reflected off the tunings, the brand of guitar & how it was made, the amplification, settings, the toys that are used to bend notes or embellish them (Wah-Wah pedals). But ultimately it’s the soul of the person who plays the strings that derives the impactful ambiance of the performance.

Jimi Hendrix can hand a guitar to Eric Clapton who could pass it to Leslie West & the sound that comes from the instrument will be from 3 entirely different capacities. That’s the magic of the musician & the hardware. The character that comes alive is in the fingers & imagination.

This showcase isn’t so much King Crimson progressive, Snakefinger discordant, or fusion bravado. It’s an expression of transformative punctuations through varying sounds, processed, stirred & added until fired from a full magazine of technique. “Critical Conversation,” is absorbing & urgent & like a current running through a hot wire.

The most accessible tune “It Slipped Through My Fingers,” has a haunting guitar line mindful of later-career Jeff Beck & John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra (“Birds of Fire”) traditions. Lots of spirit & substance.

“Buffalo Heart,” has the expressive guitar tonality that could be found in the ‘soaring hymn to ecstasy’ that 17-year-old Andy Summers provided in his memorable 4-minute plus solo on “Colored Rain” that graced Eric Burdon & The Animals’ LP Love Is. It was a mesmerizing trance-like melodic build-up that’s still chilling. That’s what many of the tunes on this ‘great mirage’ succeed in doing.

Highlights – “The Great Mirage,” “Critical Conversation,” “Mortgage On My Soul,” “It Slipped Through My Fingers,” the funky “East Hurley,” “Clarksdale” & “Buffalo Heart.”

Joel Harrison, Anthony Pirog, Stephan Crump & Allison Miller The Great Mirage was Recorded at Dreamland Studios in Hurley, NY. Music samples & CD @


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