The Brooklyn-born, Harlem-based vocalist/guitarist/bandleader/composer Allan Harris has reigned supreme as one of the most accomplished and exceptional singers of his generation.
ALLAN HARRIS BIO
Black Bar Jukebox the new CD by Allan Harris
Inspired by jazz, R&B, soul, country and Latin sounds emanating from jukeboxes in
African-American barbershops, clubs, and bars in the 1970‘s
Available January 20 on Love Productions Records
“a protean talent” - NY TImes
Ever since he burst on the jazz scene in the latter part of the twentieth century, The Brooklyn-born, Harlem-based vocalist/guitarist/bandleader/composer Allan Harris has reigned supreme as one of the most accomplished and exceptional singers of his generation. Aptly described by the Miami Herald as an artist blessed with, “the warmth of Tony Bennett, the bite and rhythmic sense of Sinatra, and the sly elegance of Nat ‘King' Cole,” the ample and aural evidence of Harris’ “protean talent” can be heard on his ten recordings as a leader; his far-flung and critically-acclaimed concerts around the world, from Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, and Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, to the 2012 London Olympics, and a number of prestigious bookings in Europe, The Middle East and Asia, and his numerous awards, which include the New York Nightlife Award for “Outstanding Jazz Vocalist” – which he won three times – the Backstage Bistro Award for “Ongoing Achievement in Jazz,” and the Harlem Speaks “Jazz Museum of Harlem Award.”
Harris’ new CD, Black Bar Jukebox, produced by the award-winning producer Brian Bacchus (Norah Jones, Gregory Porter), is his most compelling and comprehensive recording to date. Inspired by the jazz, R&B, soul, country and Latin sounds that emanated from jukeboxes in African-American barbershops, clubs, bars, and restaurants, from the mid to late twentieth century, the CD – which features Harris’ accomplished band of three years: drummer Jake Goldbas, bassist Leon Boykins, and pianist/keyboardist Pascal Le Boeuf; with special guests, percussionist Samuel Torres and guitarist Yotam Silberstein – also marks his moving and momentous return to his jazz-centered, Harlem roots, where he heard all those aforementioned styles, genres and grooves in the Golden Age of the seventies.
“Growing up, I heard the sound of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Nat King Cole,” Harris says, “I was always cognizant of jazz.”
Black Bar Jukebox features thirteen selections that include several American popular standards and originals penned by Harris. And his soulful, silken bari-tenor voice dances and trances throughout an eclectic spectrum of moods and grooves: from the moving, midtempo, 4/4 swing of “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “A Little Bit Scared” and the Count Basie-ish, “Jumping at the Woodside” vibe of ‘I Got The Blues,” to the Ahmad Jamal, “Poinciana”-pulsed “Miami,” the Latin-tinged “Catfish,” “Take Me To The Pilot,” which can be compared to Les McCann’s soulful grooves, and an ebullient cover of pop singer John Mayer’s “Daughters,” which features Harris’ spare and syncopated guitar strains.
“Believe me; what Brian brought to the table was wonderful,” Harris says, “not only because of his music, but also because of the vision, and the way he hears things. I’m enamored with the sound I got.”
Allan Harris’ soulful sound on Black Bar Jukebox comes from his rich musical home life, which extended deep into the artistic world of Harlem. Harris’ mother, Johanna Chemina Ingram-Harris, was a concert pianist, and was a graduate of the first class of New York’s legendary High School for the Performing Arts. Growing up, Harris went to Apollo Sunday afternoon matinees, and he visited his aunt Kate Ingram’s famous soul food restaurant, Kate's Home Cooking; located behind the Apollo Theater, which was featured on the cover of organist Jimmy Smith’s 1960 Blue Note LP, Home Cookin.’ In this soulful setting, Harris would meet many jazz and R&B stars who worked at the Apollo and came by the restaurant to eat and hang out. Another aunt, Theodosia Ingram, won the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night Competition and performed at a number of Manhattan clubs, including The Lenox Lounge under her stage name, “Phoebe.” It was through her, that Harris would meet and be mentored by a seminal jazz figure, Clarence Williams. We used to go to his record store, and he’d come into our house on Lincoln Avenue. At the time I was a child ... I just thought that was just a part of my life. And later, I understood the gravity of the depth of his history. Yes: Clarence Williams opened up a lot of doors for me, to really get me into this genre called jazz.” It was Williams who brought Louis Armstrong to the Harris home, and babysat the future crooner, who was frightened by Satchmo’s gravelly, "frog like voice."
Back in Harlem, Harris is the jazz vocal King of New York, as evidenced by his potpourri of engagements, including an impressive run as a featured soloist and producer of Sotheby’s three-year jazz series. His commitment to education is as equally impressive as his recordings and engagements. A Gibson guitarist, Harris is a long-time supporter of the St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital’s, Guitars in the Classroom, and donates a performance every year to Challenge Aspen/America, along with Vince Gill and Amy Grant.
All of which brings us to Black Bar Jukebox: a diverse and dynamic disc that showcases Allan Harris at the zenith of his all-encompassing artistry.
“I’m a storyteller through the genre of jazz.”
My Jazz Story
Published on: 2018-03-16
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang "Blue Velvet" at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.