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Live jazz recordings are a curious sort of creature. Sometimes they capture the energy of spontaneous creation so fundamental to the jazz idiom, while at other times they unwittingly detach the music from the atmosphere which inspired it. In the case of legendary pianist Barry Harris' recent release, Live in New York, jazz fans will be relieved to find an apt recovery of the creative energy and club atmosphere present on the night it was recorded.
Joining Harris for the set is an able foursome made up of Charles Davis on tenor sax, Roni Ben-Hur on guitar, Paul West on bass, and drummer Leroy Williams. Clearly at ease with each other, Harris and company skillfully volley from mood to swing and back ' engaging both audience and listener along the way. Tadd Dameron's "Casbah" opens the proceedings, and effectively establishes the intimate, relaxed nature of the night in question. From there, swiftness takes the floor with Harris' heavily swung tribute to Thelonious Monk, entitled "Monking Around" - a whirling dervish of twists and turns, tension and release, rascalry and straight lace that drives straight to the core of Monk.
Throughout the set, Harris delights the crowd with his warm, accessible musicianship, as well as his willingness to interact. On the night's capper, for instance, the pianist calls out to the audience for numbers between one and eight. The crowd responds with "7-4-3," and the band promptly works its way into a freewheeling improvisation based on those numbers.
Live in New York will appeal to classic jazz fans who love the live sound. While the performances may fall short of being truly classic, the feeling present is iridescent and palpable. So shut off the lights, sit back in your chair, and prepare to feel like you're part of the crowd.
Track Listing: 1. Casbah (Dameron) - 12:41
2. Monking Around (Harris) - 9:22
3. Two Step (Williams) - 9:17
4. To Dizzy With Love (Harris) - 11:35
5. 'Round Midnight (Monk) - 7:56
6. 7-4-3 (Harris) - 9:41
Personnel: Barry Harris - Piano;
Charles Davis - Tenor Sax;
Paul West - Bass.