Gene Harris Quartet - Live in London (2008) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/44,1kHz
Artist: Gene Harris Quartet
Title: Live in London
Genre: Jazz, Post Bop, Hard Bop, Piano Jazz, Standards
Label: © Resonance Records
Release Date: 2008
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 44,1kHz/24bit
Recorded: Pizza Express, London, May, 1996
Gene Harris recorded extensively from the time he came out of retirement to his untimely death in early 2000. This previously unissued concert, from 1996 at London's Pizza Express, features the pianist with a group of British musicians (guitarist Jim Mullen, bassist Andrew Clyendert, and drummer Martin Drew, the latter worked extensively with Oscar Peterson) who were chosen prior to his arrival in England. Though the musicians had not played together as a regular group, they gelled rather well as a unit. This hour-plus set starts with an invigorating, extended workout of "(There Is) No Greater Love." His jaunty, rollicking setting of Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk" is bluesy and swinging. Harris changes gears to offer a subtle, lyrical, solo interpretation of "My Funny Valentine"; from there he segues into Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone" and slowly builds it from a whisper to the boiling point. A shimmering "Misty" and a lively impromptu blues close this excellent set. --AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden
Gene Harris (1933-2000) was the master of blues in jazz. A self-proclaimed "blues pianist with chops," Harris could sting the most un-blues-like melody and make it sound like it was written by Meade Lux Lewis and performed by Oscar Peterson. Since Harris' death in 2000, posthumous releases of previously unreleased performances have been steady but sparse. These include: Live at Otter Crest (Concord Jazz, 2001), Instant Party (Concord Jazz, 2004), and now Live in London.
Documenting a 1996 London performance with a local rhythm section, Live in London find Harris at his most exuberant. The set begins with an expansive "No Greater Love," with Harris introducing the piece with a length legato prelude before turning the tempo upside-down, giving the ballad the momentum of a freight train, albeit a happy one. Guitarist Jim Mullen sounds more rock than jazz, but does manage a clever Mozart quote ("allegro molto," from the "Symphony 40 in G minor") and several cartoon soundtrack quotes.
An up-tempo "Blue Monk" provides Harris his first of three blues venues, allowing him and guitarist Mullen to display their considerable chops. This is where Harris is most at home, a steady romp through those twelve bars with a smile as big and fresh as his Idaho home. "My Funny Valentine" displays Harris invention in approaching a melody from the bottom side up in the same way as Erroll Garner in his salad days.
The recital center point is the fifteen-minute "In a Mellow Tone." Harris, who states that he never plans set lists or performances, effectively conjures this Ellington chestnut out of thin air, employing the same introduction paradigm he used on "Valentine." He reveals the song covertly and then overtly. Harris uses his great sense of drama to build upon the melody, chorus by chorus, until he achieves the maximus of his orchestral style.
Harris salutes Garner with a sensitive "Misty" before closing things with, what else, a blues appropriately entitled "Blues Closer." The Resonance Records website sports a brief interview with Harris where the pianist is revealed as a smiling, amiable giant interested only in playing music. One must believe that there is much more unreleased Gene Harris out there to celebrate. --C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz
1 No Greater Love 13:26
2 In a Mellow Tone 11:19
3 My Funny Valentine 6:05
4 Blue Monk 15:18
5 Misty 9:02
6 Blues Closer 7:21
Gene Harris, piano
Jim Mullen, guitar
Andrew Clyendert, bass
Martin Drew, drums
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