Gene Harris: The Best Of The Concord Years
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This 22-track retrospective represents well the 20 albums Gene Harris made for Concord Records over 14 years. The barrelhouse rocking pianist was obviously getting better with age, as one of his best discs was his last, Alley Cats (1999), made shortly before his death and represented here by a cover of the Crusaders' classic "Put It Where You Want It." The track is very indicative of the rest of this two-CD set, as it was recorded live, like nearly half of this compilation. Harris played always as if each tune were as familiar as "Put It," with tantalizing arrangement and distinctive soloists (sax men Red Holloway and Ernie Watts). Other standout guests throughout this well-paced set include bassist Ray Brown, trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, and saxophonist Scott Hamilton. It's up to the very big tenor sax of the late Stanley Turrentine to kick the whole thing off with the funky blues number "Uptown Sop." Harris's successful big band takes on a pair of tracks and a number of slower tunes that drip with gutsy emotion, particularly Fats Waller's "Black and Blue" and Erroll Garner's smooth "Crème de Menthe." Other finger-snapping, toe-tapping highlights include one of the most entertaining arrangements ever of the nearly century-old "Sweet Georgia Brown," and Harris's daughter Nikki's duet with organist Jack McDuff on Z.Z. Hill's blues classic "Down Home Blues." --Mark A. Ruffin
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However, even knowing and hearing the other players, Gene is RIGHT THERE. His technic, phrasing and improv's are phenomenal. This man was the "essence" of jazz piano. I am sorry Gene, that I discovered you too late, as I would have loved to have heard you live.
Well, I can at least keep buying your CD's and I would recommend them to anyone who loves Jazz Piano!