“Watching The Sky”
After over a year of touring as a duo, playing the 6-string banjo (tuned like a guitar) with a Brazilian-based percussionist, Jesse Harris decided to make that surprisingly full and efficient instrumentation the foundation of his new album Watching The Sky. Expanding upon the rhythmic direction of his previous release, Feel, this new recording is centered around the backbone percussion of Mauro Refosco (David Byrne, Bebel Gilberto, Forro In The Dark) who also plays vibes, marimba, and keyboards; and augmented by the versatile bass and guitar playing of his old pal from The Ferdinandos, Tony Scherr (Bill Frisell, Willie Nelson). Terry Manning, the legendary engineer, who has worked on many previous recordings with Jesse (Mineral, While The Music Lasts) not only engineered but also co-produced and wrote several of the album’s horn arrangements. Bringing a sensibility that recalls another era (Bacharach, Studio One) and using two amazing horn sections - one from Brooklyn and the other from Nassau, The Bahamas - Terry’s arrangements on “Watching The Sky” and “On A Day” become an unforgettable part of the song. On others, such as “Had A Feeling,” the brass section recalls an old New Orleans street band. And joining Jesse again on vocals for the first time in awhile, Norah Jones sings harmony on a new version of “It Will Stay With Us”, a song which appeared previously in a solo version on The Hottest State Soundtrack from the film by Ethan Hawke, for which Jesse wrote the score and songs. Taking a cue from his soundtrack work, Jesse includes two instrumental pieces here, the buoyant “The Fool” and the dreamy “Gimmer”, a tribute to the obscure and influential guitarist Gimmer Nicholson, whose only album was produced by Manning in 1968.