Harold Little’s “Akoben” perfects jazz-soul fusion

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Veteran trumpet player, Harold Little, presents a jazz album that sounds like soul music. Little’s interpretation of urban sensibilities can be heard in song titles and musical elements, as pieces of Gospel and rock also make appearances on the recording.

Harold Little’s musical history

Washington D.C. native Harold Little is well-versed in soul and r&b. His latest album, “Akoben,” bears this out. Inspired by his father, Little began playing trumpet in seventh grade.

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During his formative years, Little’s household was filled with the sounds of r&b and soul music from performers such as Aretha Franklin, Earth, Wind& Fire, Parliament, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Hearing those groups could have served as a master class for anyone wanting to make soulful music.

Little’s official education culminated at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and in the jazz studies department at the University of District of Columbia.

Harold Little’s brief recording history

Little found his way in the world of professional jazz musicians with the 2009 release of “Daddy’s Groove.” Little states, “Before “Daddy’s Groove,” my projects would fizzle but never die. I got love from all around the world and in places I can’t even pronounce!”

What that world-wide audience responded to was Little’s energy, and his unabashed willingness to succeed at his craft. “Daddy’s Groove” was a five-song EP, but that was enough to show audiences what Little had to offer jazz audiences.

“Akoben” by Harold Little

Little brings his intrinsic flair for trumpet-playing to every song on “Akoben.” The new album is a full-length, 12-song celebration of Little’s various moods and sensibilities.

The songs range from the Gospel-infused, “We Need Love,” featuring the vocals of Karen Linette, to the urban humor of “Stomp the Roaches.” In between there is a send-up to classic jazz, as Little covers Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.”

In Little’s version, there is a noodling guitar solo that challenges the arrangement of Brubeck’s 1959 classic. The effect makes the song sound completely originally. No one would guess the track’s age in Little’s version.

So much could be said about Little’s trumpet playing. It is energetic and pliable. Different songs require different approaches. Little sounds confident whether his instrument is soaring to the far reaches of its register, or playing smooth and cool.

Every song has an energy that makes listeners respond positively. In terms of “energy,” it isn’t a hyperkinetic, nerve-bending kind of force. It is steady and vibrant. In addition to Little’s trumpet work, the guitar, bass and drums also perform impeccably. The rhythmic lines keep listeners interested and moving.

Little has come a long way from incomplete projects to gaining world-wide acclaim. With a full-length album to his credit, it can only be hoped that audiences will continue to pay attention to what Little has to offer.

“Akoben” will be available Aug. 11, 2017.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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