The old tapes hide in the archives, deep in the dark corners of record company closets, and even the occasional back yard tool shedHal Schaefer's How Do You Like this Piano Playing (Summit Records, 2009). Finding and bringing these lost treasures to the listening public seems to have turned into an industry of its own. And praise be the effort. The year 2016 alone saw the releases of newly discovered gems by pianists Bill Evans, with Some Other Time, (Resonance Records), and Erroll Garner's Ready Take One, (Legacy Records), and the pioneering bop sax man Charlie Parker's Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes, (Verve Records).
Now Resonance Records, riding the crest of the wave of the undiscovered treasures game, offers up Groovin' Hard: Live At the Penthouse, 1964-1968 by Three Sounds Featuring Gene Harris.
Harris held down the piano chair during the fifteen year life span of the group. Drummers changed; the bass changed. Gene Harris was the constant in a group that released fifteen albums on Blue Note Records, achieving the distinction of being one of the label's top selling acts between 1958 and 1962. The group's sound was soulful, always in the groove. This was a time when soul and groove had carved out a nichesaxophonists Stanley Turrentine and Lou Donaldson were doing their part; and so was Red Garland. Harris always sounded a bit like Garland, with a shade less elegance, but like he was having a better time at it.
Groovin' Hard stacks up well with the best of The Three Sounds discographyconsistency was a big thing with Harris. Consistency and the joy of creation. He sounds like a born entertainer, someone who lived to give the people what they wanted to hear. In this set, recorded in four different stints at Seattle's now-defunct Penthouse, the group grooves into Neal Hefti's "Girl Talk," the classic "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," given a bossa-funk feel here, and the American Songbook jewel "The Shadow of Your Smile."
Harris had such chops, and such a flair for bringing deep soul into the proceedings, such panache, such exuberant confidence in his artistry. And the triosThe Three Sounds had a rotation three different drummers in these setselevated their contributions above straight accompaniment into the realm of equality that, while it may not have matched what the Bill Evans Trios were doing at this time (and that surely wasn't the point)they certainly matched Harris in their zest creating an assertive interplay and an engaging sound.
"Blue Genes," a Harris original, boogie woogie's like mad, and "Rat's Down Front," another offering from the Harris pen, ramps that approach up a couple of notches, while "Yours Is My Heat Alone" dances with a light step, with the trio at his most effervescent.
Another fine discovery. Kudos to Resonance Records for bringing it into the light.
Girl Talk; The Night Has A Thousand eyes; Blue Genes; Rat Down Front; Yours Is My Heart Alone; A.M. Blues; Bluesette; Caesar And Cleopatra; The Boogaloo.
Gene Harris: piano; Andy Sims: bass; Bill Dowdy: drums (3, 5, 8, 9); Kalil Madi: drums (2, 7, 10); Carl Burnett: drums: (1, 4, 6).
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