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Vocalist Allan Harris has daringly chosen to record an album dedicated solely to the compositions of Billy Strayhorn. Daring because, first, lyrics to Strayhorn tunes can be difficult to successfully put across to the listener; second, because they are mainly about unrequited unfilled love and are hardly ever cheerful, and third, several lyrics on the play list are rarely heard so will be unrecognizable to everyone except the most committed Strayhorn devotees. It turns out that these are not daunting obstacles at all for Harris as this album offers an hours worth of Strayhorn done as well as one can hear. Harris' voice has a happy resemblance to that of Nat King Cole's, but with a modern bent. Happy because it means Harris is very good. He has the special way with the lyrics and with the same phrasing, timing and spacing that helped to Cole be one of the very best, ever. Some of the usual suspects on this CD include the incomparable "Lush Life" a tale of creeping dissolution done by Harris in medium tempo with some scatting both of which help to relieve some of the despair. He's back only by Ron Affif's guitar. Other familiar entries include "Just A - Sittin' and A - Rockin", "Something to Live for" and "Day Dream". On the infrequently heard side are lyrics to "My Little Brown Book". Liner notes writer Willard Jenkins quotes Harris as saying that this is the first time these lyrics have been recorded. But Al Hibbler and Gloria Lynne have recorded Strayhorn's masterpiece with words.
Harris gets strong help from his backing musicians. Eric Reed's on the mark piano and Don Braden's sax are particularly worthy of mention. Their work on "Daydream" is exceptional. It's obvious that Harris has more than mere respect for Strayhorn. Judging by the way he delivers on the material, it's outright adoration. Highly recommended.
Track Listing: Just A - Sittin' and A- Rockin; Something to Live for; My Little Brown Book; Love Came; Chelsea Bridge; Lush Life; Day Dream; Pretty Girl (The Star Crossed Lovers); Passion Flower; Oo (You Make Me Tingle); Your Love Has Faded; A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing; Lotus Blossom; Love Has Passed My By Again
Personnel: Allan Harris - Vocal; Don Braden - sax; Cecil Brooks III - Drums; Ron Affif - Guitar; Essiet Okon Essiet - Bass; Eric Reed - Piano
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me. Try as I might, I was never able to achieve a high enough level of competency to perform at the level I was first and subsequently exposed to. Regardless, I was hooked on jazz and remain so to this day.