Barry Harris was always considered one of the elder statesmen of the Detroit scene, even though he was only in his thirties when he made his mark. Armed with a piano style based on the advances of Bud Powell, Harris dedicated his life to filling the vacuum left by the waning light of the bebop giants of NYC. To this end, he tutored several players of the Detroit scene, happy to share the spotlight with anyone who showed promise. Newer Than New is such an album; forgoing the hard bop movement en vogue at the time, Harris has at one level created a forum for four up and comers to share their talents and at the same time delivered an RSVP to the bebop scene a few years after its zenith.
Newer Than New is an unlikely title for an album so rooted in the past; there's nothing particularly groundbreaking here. Harris is ostensibly using the template for jazz groups created by Parker and Gillespie to fashion his own bop anthems; he's a fine player, but nothing overly special. Harris protégés Hillyer and McPherson, who first spent time in Mingus' boot camp, aren't without their flaws; Hillyer doesn't hit every note squarely and McPherson borrows a few too many riffs from Parker's deck. However, there's no escaping the fact that these men are onto something here, and every tune sounds completely inspired. Harris has a knack for creating memorable heads; the wistful beginning to "Nightingale" in particular will stick in your head for days after one listen. Harris rightly uses this album as a vehicle to spotlight the two horns, who rise to the occasion magnificently, galloping over the changes like wild horses. Hillyer has a beautiful tone on the trumpet, warm and slurred when open, sharp and piercing when muted. McPherson, in contrast, scissors through the melodies, darting about like a moth trapped in a jar. Harris takes a few solos, but is mainly content to provide support and keep things on track.
None of these musicians really went on to create a name for themselves; mostly they just remained players who probably deserved wider recognition than they got. However, they've created one of those albums which jazzbos love: a bunch of plucky unknowns who recorded a flawed, but exceptional album. Not on the same shelf as Parker and Gillespie, but certainly in the same bookcase.
Track Listing: Mucho Dinero, Easy To Love, Burgundy, The Last One, Anthropology, I Didn't Know What Time It Was, Make Haste, Nightingale.
Personnel: Barry Harris, piano; Charles McPherson, alto sax; Lonnie Hillyer, trumpet; Ernie Farrow, bass; Clifford Jarvis, drums.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.