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The Three Sounds: Babe's Blues

Douglas Payne By

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Bravo for pianist Gene Harris, who seems to have recently and belatedly been discovered. After churning out dozens of fine records in the 1960s for Blue Note, Verve, Mercury and Limelight, then drowning in funk and disco records in the 1970s, he finally gave it all up and retired to Idaho. Bassist Ray Brown coaxed him back into playing in the mid 1980s and the two formed a terrific group that recorded frequently for the Concord label.

Since then, Harris has steadily been putting out a variety of first-rate discs with his own quartet, featuring the guitar handiwork of Ron Eschete. His latest on Concord, It's The Real Soul says it all. Like Joe Henderson, he's doing what he's always done best. It's just the rest of the world finally started paying attention. Babe's Blues is from the Three Sounds, the Harris trio that made many fine records from 1958 through about 1968. It's one of those treats that's been collecting dust in Blue Note's warehouse since it was recorded 8/31/61 (the same session that yielded the group's Hey There ). The title track — a classy Monk-blues crash typical of early Randy Weston (the song's composer) — was recorded 3/8/62, the same date which also provided tracks for the group's Black Orchid and Out of This World (both available on Japanese CD). Harris, aided by smooth, sympathetic bassist Andy Simpkins and subtle drummer Bill Dowdy, are in top form here, like a hip hotel lounge band with a wicked sense of the blues. Harris plumbs his specialty throughout, wresting the blues out of even the most mundane of tunes. The trio works the blues into well-worn standards like "Shiny Stockings," "Stairway to the Stars" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," and gives the gospel good time to "Babe's Blues," Ernest Tubbs' (!) "Walking the Floor Over You" and Nat Adderley's "Work Song." Those who marveled at Ray Charles' country-and-western renditions a full year later would have been mightly pleased with how Harris and company twisted the jazz out of the country.


Title: Babe's Blues | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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