Harry Skoler – Red Brick Hill (ENG review)

Sunnyside records – Street date July 12th 2024
Harry Skoler - Red Brick Hill

For Harry Skoler, music is the thread of his life, a crucial element that keeps him standing. Losing a friend in his youth, raised in a house built by his father, a youth impacted by this loss, driving him to seek refuge in music. In his new recording, Red Brick Hill, Skoler revisits the past and tells his story instrumentally with an incredible array of musicians, aiming to purify his soul, preserve his friend’s legacy, and, hopefully, help others bear such burdens through the gift of music.

Skoler grew up in a house designed by his father at the top of a red brick hill. Although there weren’t many children in their neighborhood, Skoler was able to develop deep friendships with a young girl named Nancy and a calm, serious boy named Bill. When they were teenagers, Bill moved away from the hill but first brought Skoler a box containing his childhood toys and trinkets. It wasn’t until later that Skoler, while walking with a friend, saw Bill’s mother arriving at his friend’s house.

In these compositions, indeed, there is a form of torment paralleled with often joyful and expressive music. A personal story is told somewhat like a film, and one can understand the contours of Harry Skoler’s work when one knows the rest of his story: Curious about her presence, Skoler asked his friend about Bill. His friend told him he wasn’t supposed to tell him anything. Pressing his friend, Skoler discovered that Bill was dead. Running frantically back to his house, Skoler plunged into the newspapers of the past weeks, only to find an article reporting Bill’s suicide. Devastated, Skoler found no comfort from his parents and discovered they had even asked others not to tell him about Bill’s disappearance.

The birth of this new project for Skoler dates back to 2022, with producer Walter Smith III encouraging Skoler to continue writing music to tell his story. In August 2022, Skoler and his son went to New York to record the album at Sear Sound studio. Before the session, Skoler told his story to his son, who replied that Skoler should tell the ensemble of musicians that he and Smith had assembled, including vibraphonist Joel Ross, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Johnathan Blake. The musicians listened to the story with empathy and promised to tell it through their playing. The recording testifies to the ensemble’s empathy, as the music highlights their connection throughout the album.

We find here an album of significant intellectual depth, in which the composer has managed to convey a myriad of feelings, as well as images of moments. It results in a form of natural nostalgia, in a poetic manner. It is perhaps the most beautiful tribute anyone could make to a dear departed friend, with moving compositions. Red Brick Hill is a memory between joy and sorrow, but above all, it is a beautiful note of hope that Harry Skoler gives us, a form of life lesson, something precious that undoubtedly deserves to land on our “Essential Albums” list.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, July 4th 2024

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