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It's a Wonderful World

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Album Review

For this album, Alan Harris is joined by a septet of top drawer musicians offering an appetizing menu of 14 tunes, the preponderance of which are standards, along with some Harris originals. Harris' voice is a propitious blend of Nat King Cole's liquid vocal stylings and Sammy Davis, Jr.'s more chipper way with the vocal art. The result of this salubrious combination is a very listenable 55 minutes of music that show a Harris at ease with all jazz rhythms. He swings on the title tune "It's a Wonderful World," "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," and "You're My Everything" where he engages in meaningful scatting. Harris uses "I'll Remember April" to reveal his affinity for the art of vocalise, with his acrobatic mouthing of the words and clever use of falsetto paying homage to the vocal wizardry of Eddie Jefferson. "The Nearness of You" opens to a fugue of piano by Benny Green, then segues to Claudio Roditi's trumpet figures before Harris comes in with his languorous treatment of the tune, displaying his affinity for the ballad stylings of the inestimable Johnny Hartman. Harris not only sings a mean ballad; he's no slouch at composing them as well. "Midnight Sun" is one of the highlights on the album with Harris' voice weaving with Mark Whitfield's guitar for a truly enduring rendition of this tune. His "Castle of Love" has the ingredients of a good love song; it's poignant and sad, but eventually hopeful. Brazilian and Latin tempos rise out of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Desafinado." Harris remembers the blues too, getting down and dirty on "Black Coffee Blues," which he co-composed with Ray Brown. Green's funky piano and Whitfield's stretched-out guitar are featured on this tune. The supporting cast of musicians are from the upper reaches of jazz, and along with Green and Whitfield, each one gets the opportunity to stretch out. Venerable bass player Ray Brown and first-call drummer Jeff Hamilton provide a solid beat for the proceedings, and the mellow sound of Tom Varner's French Horn is heard on several cuts. It's a Wonderful World sports a diverse playlist, and Harris' set of vocal chords prove capable of handling that diversity, backed by musicians possessing blue-ribbon credentials and playing dynamic arrangements. A nice touch is that the lyrics to the tunes are reprinted in the liner notes. This album is recommended.


Born: Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the top male jazz singers to emerge in the 1990s, Allan Harris sometimes sounds a bit like Nat King Cole but also puts his own personality into his spirited rendition of standards. He first recorded for his own Love Productions label and went on to record two sets for Mons: It's a Wonderful World (a sextet date with Benny Green, Mark Whitfield, and Claudio Roditi) and an ambitious effort on which he was backed by Germany's 54-piece Metropole Orchestra. In 2001, Harris paid tribute to longtime...
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It's a Wonderful World, Allan Harris
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