Whether he is providing the lone accompaniment to idiosyncratic vocalist Sheila Jordan or engaging the urbane artistry of a consummate pro like pianist Kenny Barron, acoustic bassist Harvie S demonstrates the talent and temperament of a sublime duo partner. Witchcraft is a sequel to a duet session between Harvie and Barron recorded back in 1986 but literally lost among tapes in the basement and only released in 2008 under the ironic title Now Was The Time. It was like buried treasure, and such a seemingly effortless and erudite musical conversation that the pair convened again, 26 years after that original date. These ten tracks show them to be just as compatible but all the wiser for the time elapsed time.
Harvie immediately showcases the equality of their interplay by carrying the melody on the opening number, “Autumn Nocturne.” On other tunes, such as “For Heaven’s Sake,” Barron is inescapably the focus of attention. But most tracks find the pair intertwined a fine weave of ideas. On the beguiling samba, “Rio,” they state the theme in unison like a pair of horn players. Stevie Wonder’s “Creepin’” is clearly a chance for Harvie to showcase his fast fingers, while Deodato’s obscure “Juan’s Theme,” from the 2000 movie Bossa Nova, may be the highlight of the disc, as Barron spools out beautiful lines that are then gloriously ornamented by Harvie’s extended bow work. The three-song finale includes Harvie’s wistful original ballad, “Until Tomorrow,” a very Monkish take on Duke Ellington’s “Wig Wise,” and then Cy Coleman’s title track, which Barron takes at a serene, victory-lap tempo.
“Background music” is usually an epithet, especially when the intelligence and technical facility are as high as they are on Witchcraft. But this does indeed enrich your existence as a secondary focus, much like a plush Oriental rug or a striking painting. Pay attention and it will give up its many secrets. But let it play as you make dinner or converse over wine and your ambiance will be more golden than silence.