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** JOHN HARLE: "Terror and Magnificence" (Argo)

May 11, 1997|Josef Woodard

British saxophonist and composer John Harle is, to his credit, intent on blurring boundaries. In this collection, his music surfs the margins of the classical, pop, jazz and instrumental-wallpaper traditions. Harle goes wide stylistically, but the album lacks a center and relies too much on electronic textures and idle atmospherics, including an annoying reverb on his saxophone. Even the noble efforts of a cast of musicians, including the Balanescu Quartet and saxophonist Andy Sheppard, seem swathed in artificial, studio-crafty airs.

The title piece swerves from a Latin-jazzy vamp to abstraction and back, with murmuring narration, by Thomas Russell, of a Guillaume de Machaut text. Elvis Costello makes a prominent cameo, singing the simple, languid "Mistress Mine" with a cool swagger and that broad vibrato you could drive a Buick through, contrasting nicely with the fine, controlled voice of soprano Sarah Leonard on "The Three Ravens." On "Rosie-Blood," Harle checks in with his early music interest, revisiting Medieval composer Perotin, featuring countertenor William Purefoy. It's possible to appreciate the intention, even if the results are mixed.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good), four stars (excellent).

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