By: Elliot Simon

This reviewer first saw guitarist Sheryl Bailey blow apart the old club Tonic almost two decades ago with an electrifying plugged-in performance. Now a respected educator and at the top of her profession, Bailey still rocks out when the setting calls for it and with her chordal mastery, technical ability and overall knowledge she has become the reigning mistress of styles and stylings. Recently, she and veteran bassist Harvie S partnered to form the duo Plucky Strum. The latter is likewise a musician’s musician and on Departure he matches Bailey’s speed, maintains a firm rhythmic underpinning and contributes his own originality—no easy task in this very intimate setting. S’ opener “Sublime” is an in-tandem bopper that appears written with the duo in mind whereas Bailey’s “Old and Young Blues” (an allusion to the duo’s ages?) is a beautifully structured sonic reflection. Bailey enjoys reframing ‘60s and ‘70s tunes (witness her Hendrix project) and here both Joni Mitchell’s “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” and Stephen Stills’ “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” are explored. The melody of the latter is reimagined through lovely acoustic guitar work and vivid arco while the former morphs from its original dreamy musing into a commanding electric statement. Bowed bass also sets up “Song of the Guitar”, Bailey’s touching acoustic tribute to her instrument. Bailey channels and challenges her partner’s deep Latin associations with the gorgeous acoustic ballad “Sabado Con Mi Amor” before his own ballad, “Now I Know”, equally inspires Bailey’s elegant touch. Bailey and S are back to bopping with the clean lines of “What She Said” and in the pocket with “Good Ole Days”, which features Bailey’s chords and improvisation over walking bass. The sleepy pathos of “Alone” closes things out but the jointly composed “Cranshaw” potentially charts a gratifying future direction. Its open setting provides the duo with their largest sonic space and in that context they are at their most inventive. For more information, visit This project is at Mezzrow Dec. 19th. See Calendar.


To buy Sheryl Baileys new album, click here

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