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Barry Harris: Magnificent!

C. Andrew Hovan By

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By the time pianist Barry Harris recorded his first session as a leader in 1958, Breakin' It Up for the Argo label, Charlie Parker had already been dead for three years and the be-bop movement that he had helped usher in was already giving way to the more visceral advance of hard bop and the beginning strains of Ornette Coleman's "new thing" approach. For Harris, who was a died-in-the-wool be-bopper, this meant coming on the scene a bit too late to be part of the music that had inspired his own jazz quest. Subsequently, while Harris' love of the be-bop language in no way makes him a one-trick pony, his style has somewhat limited his range of expression over the years.

Coming off a string of Riverside releases that tended to possess a nagging feeling of sameness, Harris was to fare much better with his series of Prestige recordings. He added horns for his first two efforts, Luminescence and Bull's Eye, a move that seemed to broaden his musical palette. Then in 1969 at the end of his tenure with the label, Harris would return to the trio format, but with a more mature outlook. While the hyperbole involved in the album's title may border a bit on overstatement, the newly-reissued Magnificent easily ranks among Harris's better and most realized trio dates.

There's much that is attractive about this set because even among the expected bop tunes like "Dexterity" and "Ah-Leu-Cha," we get such notable Harris originals as "You Sweet and Fancy Lady" (one of his best-known pieces), "Just Open Your Heart," and the Latin-tinged "Sun Dance." Ron Carter and drummer Leroy Williams form a well-oiled team with ample support and choice solo spots of their own. Although Harris continues to be a strong and committed performer, his Prestige period still holds special treasures of which Magnificent happily belongs.

Track Listing: Bean and the Boys/ You Sweet and Fancy Lady/ Rouge/ Ah-Leu-Cha/ Just Open Your Heart/ Sun Dance/ These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)/ Dexterity. Recorded: November 25, 1969, RCA Studios, NYC.

Personnel: Barry Harris- piano; Ron Carter- double bass; Leroy Williams- drums.

Title: Magnificent! | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Prestige Records


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