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Gene Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones: For the Love of Ivory

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

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These CDs have two major things in common: they each represent the very best of jazz piano, and they're both recorded live, with appreciative audiences whose rapture is contagious. With no studio fixes and no second chances, they also provide that pure, breathless excitement that comes from working without a net.



Gene Harris Quartet
Another Night in London
Resonance Records
2010



Another Night in London follows the quartet's 2008 release Live in London (Resonance Records) with six long and luxurious tracks of soulful, bluesy jazz. The first track sets the tone, since this irresistibly buoyant "Sweet Georgia Brown" is followed by five more tunes that swing hard enough to make your houseplants dance.

Somehow, Gene Harris can play a relatively slow ballad like "That's All" and make it feel like a romp; and while his "Meditation" is technically Brazilian, it detours through the heart of Chicago. Guitarist Jim Mullen is a terrific foil, with his strong lines, witty quotes, and big, round tone, and the band sounds like it's having a ball. In all the jazz behind us and whatever lies ahead, it's a safe bet that it can't get any better than this.



Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones
Live in Marciac 1993
Groovin' High
2010



Another live treasure from the prestigious Marciac (France) jazz festival, and a double portion, too: on disc one, each piano master is featured separately, accompanied by bass and drums; on disc two, Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones play together as a swinging and seamless duo. For students of the keyboard, these sessions provide endless lessons in stylistic nuance; Ira Gitler's notes are excellent for putting both performances in musical and historical context. Students of jazz tradition will also appreciate the classics from Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Dizzy Reece, Tadd Dameron and Thad Jones, Hank's little brother. (And speaking of which, this is one of the most moving versions of "A Child is Born" ever recorded, which is saying a great deal.)



It's not easy to play two chordal instruments without colliding, and on such fast numbers as Parker's "Confirmation," the duo demonstrates how it's done. There isn't a boring moment on either disc. There's also a wonderfully sly "Blue Monk" and an intricate, effervescent "Bluesette," where the fine drummer Idris Muhammad gets a chance to shine. As with the first disc, witty quotes are sprinkled here and there, proving once again that the best jazz requires intelligence and humor as well as the musical ability to weave one song into another. This is lyrical, fluid, elegant music-making which manages to be traditional and as fresh as tomorrow at the same time.


Tracks and Personnel

Another Night in London

Tracks: Sweet Georgia Brown; Meditation; That's All; Lady Be Good; This Masquerade; Georgia on My Mind.

Personnel: Gene Harris: piano; Jim Mullen: guitar; Andrew Cleyndert: bass; Martin Drew: drums.

Live in Marciac 1993

Tracks: CD1: Con Man; I Waited For You; Tin Tin Deo; Epistrophy; Speak Low; Polkadots & Moonbeams; Bluesette; Recorda Me. CD2: Our Delight; A Child is Born; Confirmation; Moose the Mooche; Blue Monk; Relaxing at Camarillo.

Personnel: Tommy Flanagan: piano (CD1#1-4, CD2#1-6); Hank Jones: piano (CD1#5-8, CD2#1-6); Hein Vendegeyn: bass; Idris Muhammad: drums.


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