Gig Journal

Danny Harrington/Steve Carter Duo, Powow River Grille, Amesbury, MA. Various dates in 2008 & 2009

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Danny Harrington & Steve Carter at Powow River Grille


Danny Harrington & Steve Carter at Powow River Grille


Danny Harrington & Steve Carter at Powow River Grille


Most of my gig journals are about one particular night, but since this one is about an ongoing gig, I'll be revising it over time, and including new sound clips, so check this page frequently for updates. -- Most recent update: December 27, 2009

I've been playing Wednesday nights with Vandoren Artist Danny Harrington at the Powow River Grille since January of 2007. In 2008 we played for the Wine Dinner every Wednesday night. In 2009, we've moved weekly Wine Dinner to Thursday nights. I began recording the gigs in the summer of 2008, and I've included some sound clips from those recordings in this gig journal.

I met Danny at Berklee, in 1975, when we first played together in Mike Scott's 10-piece faculty band. We rehearsed once a week, and played various gigs at Boston jazz clubs, and a few concerts in the Berklee Performance Center. After I left Berklee, in 1997, I didn't run into Danny much. A couple of years ago I went by the Powow to hear Danny play jazz brunch with another old Berklee buddy, guitarist John Baboain. The duo sounded great; on their break we chatted and caught up on old times. Not long after that Danny called me to sub for John at the jazz brunch. I played a few of those gigs, and really enjoyed them. In February Danny asked me to play a Wednesday night duo gig at the Powow. His plan was to eventually start using a piano player -- which is what the owner wanted -- but he started off with me on guitar. Over the first few months, I did most of the gigs. I enjoyed the gigs, Danny enjoyed the gigs, and the customers enjoyed the music, so it soon became a steady -- and very enjoyable -- gig for me.

The Room

The Powow is one of the nicest rooms I've ever played. A large room, with a high tin ceiling and old brick along one wall, it has excellent acoustics. We set up along the long side of the room, with the brick wall behind us, and the bar opposite us. To our right there are tables, and a stairway leading to a balcony with more seating. The decor and lighting create an intimate jazz setting, while still complimenting the large, open space of the the restaurant.

I had been using my Ampeg B-15 for this gig, but it crapped out a couple of months ago and has been in the shop. I've been using the Peavey Studio Pro 112. There's a baby grand piano in front of us, off to my left, and I aim the Peavy at that. The curved wood of the piano reflects the sound nicely down the length of the room.

Beautiful Love

I've included this take in the journal because I think we both played well on it; with its nice relaxed swing, it represents some of things I like best about this duo. Danny has a great sense of phrasing the melody behind the beat, when it suits the tune, but he can also play right on top of the beat when he's soloing, to create forward momentum. I think this take captures that, and it captures our blend well. One of the great pleasures of working with Danny is reveling in his beautiful baritone tone, but, to be honest, I don't really get to enjoy it as much as I might on the gig, because I'm off to the side, so much of the tone, projecting to the front, is lost to me. On this recording, I had the recorder in front of us, so now we get to hear the full tone. I'd been recording these Powow gigs on my new Zoom H2 digital recorder for a few weeks. To be unobtrusive, I'd put the H2 on the shelf behind us. Last week Danny said, "Why don't you put that thing in front of us?" So for this gig I put the H2 on the table in front of us. It captures Danny's tone beautifully. If you listen to other sound clips for this journal and Danny's tone doesn't sound quite as good, it's because they are old takes with the poor recorder placement. As for the guitar tone, the Powow is about the best room, acoustically, a guitarist could hope for. On this take, you can the natural reverberation of the highs. Sweet!

If You Never Come to Me

This is a beautiful, but somewhat obscure tune by Antonio Carlos Jobim. The ninth measure of the melody presents in interesting challenge. It consists of quarter note triplets on a single note. The challenge is to give each note it's own character. For singers, this happens automatically because each note has a different syllable, and therefor a different tone color. For horn players, it's not that simple. Danny plays this phrase a little differently each time, always giving each note its own character. I once pointed this out to him -- I assume he does it instinctively and has not thought about it -- and he said, "I just think about how Getz would phrase it." As for myself, when I play the melody of this tune, I'm still experimenting the phrasing and articulation.

Another interesting characteristic of this tune is the way the melody ascends in the first three measures, while the bass descends. The melody notes are B-flat, B-natural, C. I usually voice my chords as either major-7th with 3 in the lead, or major-6/9 or major-7/9 with the 9th in the lead; I think these voicings support the melody well.

Sunset and the Mocking Bird

A true test of artistry is playing a ballad. Danny does a very nice job on Duke Ellington's "Sunset and the Mockingbird."


When I'm comping on a slow swing tune in a duo setting, I usually play a two feel on the head, and play walking bass behind the solo. I try to vary the rhythms of the chord attacks, so they don't become too predictable. On "Yesterdays," this worked out pretty well. Danny was obviously comfortable, because he played the melody expressively, and played an outstanding solo. I like the way he started his solo low, quiet, sparse, and then gradually built it up.

During my solo, I try to mix in a few chord hits with the single-line playing. On this take, I had a few good lines in my solo, and a few rough spots. I probably could have used a few more chord hits. But I got out of the solo and back into comping pretty well, and Danny's entrance with the melody of the out chorus works well.


Another tune that came out very well on this night was Sam River's tune "Beatrice." Danny uses his high register effectively on the melody. I'm pleased with the feel of my comping, and I'm also pleased that my solo is very melodic. This tune inspires melodic solos.

By the way, the hissing sound you hear in the background as Danny starts his solo is the grille. The kitchen is an open area behind the bar, and we're set up right across from it, so the chef often unwittingly serves as our percussionist. The sizzle almost sounds like brushes on a cymbal.

Ghost of a Chance

"Ghost of a Chance" is a tune we don't play often; it came out very well on this night. The changes lend themselves well to walking bass on the guitar. I like the way I mixed chord-melody and single-note lines on my solo.

You Stepped Out of a Dream

On Easter Sunday, Danny was off on another gig, so I played the Jazz Brunch solo at the Powow. The restaurant was packed, and as I was getting ready to start the first tune, Mal came over and said that Mark, one of the owners, had said I'd better play pretty loud, because there were a lot a people and it was pretty noisy. Fortunately, my Ampeg B-15 delivers a lot of sound.

I took "You Stepped Out of a Dream" a bit faster than usual, but I think that was a good thing, because it inspired me to do some nice things on the solo.

On "All The Things You Are" I played a pretty good mixture of chords, bass lines, and single-note lines.

Soul Eyes

Dynamics can make all the difference in a piece of music. Dynamic variation can be applied not only to sections of a tune, but to individual notes. Danny brings the melody of "Soul Eyes" to life through the soulful dynamic shaping of individual notes.

For my part, I tried to keep my comping simple, and stay out of the way. For example, if the melody note was a flat-five, I'd leave it out of my voicing, to allow the color of the note to be controlled by the bari.

Bossa Nouveau

Ode to the Road

Danny has introduced me to many great tunes that I had never heard before, such as Pepper Adam's "Bossa Nouveau" and Alan Broadbent's "Ode to the Road." At first I really scuffled with the "seemingly unrelated" chord changes, but after many months of playing the tunes, I can hear the logic of the changes, and I've grown to love these tunes.

This I Dig of You

This was the final night of jazz at the Powow River Grille. The restaurant closes its door on New Years Eve. It's been a great run for me -- I've played over 100 gigs in this beautiful room. Danny has played many more than that. We will both miss this gig. The owners, Mark and Francis, have treated us with respect and kindness.

I think it's appropriate that I close this gig journal with our closing night's performance of the Hank Mobley tune, "This I Dig of You."

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