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Ballad Essentials: Gene Harris

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Album Review

This compilation draws 11 tracks from nine Gene Harris albums recorded for Concord Records between 1989 and 1995, and what's striking is how consistent those tracks are. Working at slow tempos, Harris plus his accompanists — ranging from piano-guitar-bass-drums quartets to a duet with tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton ("At Last"); a trio with organist Jack McDuff and bass player Luther Hughes ("You Don't Know What Love Is"); and, finally, a solo piano piece ("Angel Eyes") — maintain a bluesy, soulful approach that values expressive, yet precise playing. Harris usually takes the lead, though he makes a wonderful backup musician to Hamilton on the first half of "At Last" before executing a flourish and taking over for some attractive soloing even there. Like many other jazz musicians, Harris really came into his own in his maturity at Concord, and this is a good selection that demonstrates the strength of his overall catalog with the label.

Customer Reviews

Incomparable

When I moved to the west coast of Canada, I had never heard of Gene Harris. Since the first time I was transfixed by the Ray Brown Trio f. Gene Harris on piano on KPLU in Seattle, I could recognize his style immediately when I heard it. He brought out a sound that no one else seems to be able to match. But his improvisation was more masterful still. After a lot of sampling, this was the Gene Harris album I bought. So if nobody loves you 'cause you're down and out, and your life has been a masquerade, and nothing ever happens to you, and your wishes on stars never come true, this album will get you through, until the real thing comes along.

Biography

Born: September 01, 1933 in Benton Harbor, MI

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

One of the most accessible of all jazz pianists, Gene Harris' soulful style (influenced by Oscar Peterson and containing the blues-iness of a Junior Mance) was immediately likable and predictably excellent. After playing in an Army band (1951-1954), he formed a trio with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy which was, by 1956, known as the Three Sounds. The group was quite popular, and recorded regularly during 1956-1970 for Blue Note and Verve. Although the personnel changed and the music...
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Ballad Essentials: Gene Harris, Gene Harris
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