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Uncontainable. It is often said in any generic biography about almost any jazz pianist that they were skilled in playing the blues. This may or may not be true. In the case of Gene Harris, he should be the definition of jazz blues. His playing has always possessed a muscular, intelligent, double-fisted character that appealed to me. His range is encyclopedic with that ever-present tinge of gospel-blues that makes his performances very accessible to jazz buffs and nonjazz listeners alike. Harris' playing is bright and hopeful like sunshine; even if it is the blues.
Gene Harris was born on September 1st, 1933 in Benton Harbor, Michigan,where he began to play piano by ear at an early age. After a stint in the Army, Harris formed his trio, The Three Sounds, with Andrew Simpkins on bass and Bill Dowdy on drums in 1956. Blue Note regular Lou Donaldson discovered the trio and brought them to New York where they made many notable recordings for Blue Note, who, incidentally, has been tardy in the re-release of the Sound's material.
The Matter at Hand. The Three Sounds? Standards is full of Gene Harris' good-natured, hand-over-hand rolling blues playing. The disc opens with a playful "Makin' Whoopee," a cool juxtaposition between the song subject and the gospel elements of Harris' performance. This is the only "hard" standard of the bunch. The collection is tastefully chosen and includes fine takes of "Cry Me A River," "The Best Things in Life are Free," "Alone Together" and "Goodnight, Ladies." Harris is the star supported ably by Simpkins and Dowdy. While being the premier jazz-blues pianist, Harris' music is never dark or sinister. Gene Harris' music is always about sunshine and brightness.
The Anemic Discography. Including Standards, only seven discs have been released under The Three Sounds? name: Blue Note Presents the Three Sounds (BN46531), Babe's Blues (BN84434), The Best of the Three Sounds (BN27323), Gene Harris and the Three Sounds Live at the "It" Club (BN35338) [a March 6, 1970 date with Henry Franklin on bass and Carl Burnett on drums], Black Orchid (BN21289), and the Japanese Import Moods (EMI M22000). Also still in release is Nat Adderley's Branching Out (Riverside 285/Original Jazz Classics OJCCD-255-2), a 1958 date with Johnny Griffin on tenor saxophone and the Sounds as rhythm section. And The Three Sounds were recorded as backup for Anita O'Day on Vol. 49 Verve Jazz Masters (Verve 27653). To hear most critics and Blue Note promotion, there is a ton of The Three Sounds in the vault. Why not release it? Hey Mosaic, thisSounds like a great project.
Riding On A Blue Note. Blue Note Records has released four other discs in their Standards series of recordings. They are Lee Morgan (BN23213), Sonny Clark (BN21283), Grant Green (BN21284), and Jimmy Smith (BN21282). All of these recordings contain either previously unreleased or limited released material. All 50s and 60s Blue Note material should be welcomed and accepted as the history it is.
Makin' Whoopee, Cry Me A River, Witchcraft, Again, Sometimes I'm Happy, Stay As Sweet As You Are, The Best Things In Life Are Free, Red Sails In The Sunset, Alone Together, Lights Out, Thinking Of You, Good night, Ladies.
Personnel: Gene Harris: Piano; Andrew Simpins: Bass; Bill Dowdy; Drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.