Plucky Strum

(Whaling City Sound)

Guitarist Sheryl Bailey and bassist Harvie S are colossal talents on their own, but as the duo Plucky Strum, they’re a remarkably potent jazz force. Bailey, a trad-jazz and early bebop maven, has a lyric sensibility and an affinity for bright, vibrant chords. Harvie S, a veteran accompanist to the likes of Jim Hall and Thad Jones, is a bass player capable of both sturdy below-ground support and soaring self-expression. Their styles meshed well on the duo’s 2015 debut (titled Plucky Strum), which showcased an agile unit with heaps of dexterity and a penchant for lean, organic melodies. On the follow-up album, Departure, the duo advances in two directions—toward a fortification of their original sound and into new sonic territory. Opener “Sublime” has the feel of a jaunty mid-century bop tune—think guitarist Tal Farlow’s snappishly articulated duo work—but also incorporates sounds from jazz’s present, including urban blues and Halvorsonian avant-garde. A version of Joni Mitchell’s “The Hissing Of Summer Lawns” uses a similarly protean approach, beginning with clearly delineated shapes and slowly softening into pools of tonal color. “Sabado” is a bustling collage of Latin influences, while a deeply moving rendition of Stephen Stills’ “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” leans closer to Americana, with its ringing acoustic guitar and arco bass. Although Bailey and Harvie S demonstrate a strong command of non-jazz idioms, their best work is done in a rhythmically charged jazz setting, such as the superb tracks “What She Said” and “Good Old Days.”

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