Concord's second posthumous Gene Harris release screams with the master bluesman's talent, finding him in equal company with John Heard and Jimmie Smith under the only circumstances Harris should ever be heard Live .
This disc starts out with a soul as big as the universe and continues to expand as the non-metaphorical one does. Recorded live at the Inn at Otter Crest in Oregon in 1981, the late Gene Harris was found in his best form. Whether upbeat ("Sweet Lorraine") or in a ballad mood ("My foolish Heart"), Harris was up to the task. His playing was Black Gospel churchy and classical orchestral and his talent always tastefully presented. Some writers have incorrectly compared Harris with Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum, but his talent is in a considerably different direction. Harris never overplays, in spite of the fact he has the chops to do so. He, like Bill Basie, had a knack of finding the right note at the right time. Sometimes, there are a lot of notes, sometimes very few. But all of the notes he played a carefully chosen.
Harris was the supreme jazz-blues player, more Meade Lux Lewis than Teddy Wilson, and every Gene Harris disc has a blues and Live at Otter Crest is no exception. All eleven minutes of "A Little Blues There" is every bit as exciting as Harris' boogie-woogie romp on "Summertime" from Bam, Bam, Bam (Concord 4375, 1989). He plays all over the keyboard and orchestrates with the passion of Hector Berlioz and the sense of humor of Roosevelt Sykes. His war-horse "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is larger than life, as is his Basie on "Shiny Stockings" and "Cute". He is supported by none other than bassist John Heard, whose precise and erudite playing is in evidence throughout. Drummer Jimmie Smith (no B-3 relatives) keeps the underpinning stable. Critic Howard Mandel provides sensitive and sympathetic liner notes, completing this great package by a great pianist.
I hope that Concord Records has a whole warehouse full of this Gene Harris music. There can never be too much.
Personnel: Gene Harris: Piano; John Heard: Bass; Jimmie Smith: Drums.