It is funny (strange) how the mainstream press "rediscovers" jazz musicians in the golden years of their careers. Not that Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, or Dexter Gordon had ever really been missing. As with these hall of famers, prepare for the mainstream press to rediscover pianist Barry Harris.
Marketing departments might favor twenty-somethings over bespeckled white-haired gentlemen, but jazz piano fans are loyal to Mr. Harris' warmhearted bebop lines. Cut from the same Detroit mold as Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan, Harris was partner with the masters of bebop Sonny Stitt, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, and Dexter Gordon. His own recordings for Prestige and Riverside paralleled the progression of bop and, although recently active as an educator and performer, he has been sorely under recorded domestically.
This live date, recorded in 2002, finds Harris accompanied by his long time drummer Leroy Williams, bassist Paul West, Israeli-born guitarist Roni Ben-Hur, and saxophonist Charles Davis. Harris' relaxed approach prevails here. The band opens with the Tadd Dameron minor bop classic "Casbah." The quintet assures listeners this will be an enjoyable 60-minute set. Charles Davis is featured here and on the jovial "Monking Around." Davis has that Chicago tenor sound passed down from Gene Ammons and Von Freeman.
Harris' "Monking Around," played on the changes of "Strike Up The Band," marches a Thelonious pattern around this up-tempo romp. Harris accompanies Davis and Ben-Hur until he's freed to take a slippery solo packed with nimble right handed humor. Like the original "To Dizzy With Love," Harris displays his loyalties to the innovations of Monk and Bud Powell.
The band plays "Round Midnight" with less fuss than expected. Harris' simple take on this often overdone classic is quite a breath of fresh air. Guitarist Ben-Hur follows suit with his minimalist approach.
The disc ends with Harris leading the crowd in singing the improvised title "7-4-3." Like all great musicians, he can create a feast out of a sampling of numbers.
Personnel: Barry Harris - Piano; Charles Davis - Tenor Saxophone; Roni Ben-Hur - Guitar; Paul West - Bass;
Leroy Williams - Drums.