Eddie Harris and Ellis Marsalis – Homecoming- Elm Classics/ Spindletop Records ELM 19789 – 1985 & 2009, 68:30 ****1/2:
(Ellis Marsalis, piano; Eddie Harris, tenor sax (tracks 1-7); Ellis Marsalis and Jonathan Batiste, piano duo on #8-11; Ellis Marsalis, piano, Jonathan Batiste, melodica, Jason Stewart, bass, and Jason Marsalis, drums on #12)
Elm Classics has been proudly re-releasing recordings of the Marsalis patriarch, Ellis Marsalis, which were out of print. They are augmenting these LP length releases with additional material from more present day recordings of Ellis. Homecoming, from a 1985 Spindletop Records LP, features in an intimate duo setting the Chicago based tenor saxist, Eddie Harris, with the New Orleans flavored piano stylings of Ellis Marsalis. Approximately half the tracks were standards such as Out of This World, Darn That Dream, and Have You Met Miss Jones, along with original numbers from both Eddie and Ellis. Recorded in Dallas, Texas in Sept. 1985, Homecoming finds these two jazz veterans comfortable in each other’s company. Much as Bill Charlap and Houston Person made an unlikely but complementary pair in their recent recording session, Eddie and Ellis, blend naturally. Ellis has the sophistication to play with most anyone and Eddie Harris keeps his sometimes “out’ playing largely in check.
The title track is simply lovely with Eddie’s brawny tone blending with Ellis’ natural warmth. Deacceleration, a plaintive Harris composition, finds Eddie’s emoting matched with Marsalis’ arpeggios. Ethereal Moments, a joint composition, stretches Ellis’ comfort zone as Marsalis mixes dissonant notes as Eddie takes off in an avant direction. The three standards are more Marsalis territory and Ellis mixes in some stride New Orleans flavor into Have You Met Miss Jones.
The remaining four tracks of Homecoming are a piano conversation between Marsalis and piano protégé, Jonathan Batiste. Recorded in New Orleans on Dec. 29, 2009, the first three tracks are piano duos, while the last number, Blues at the End of the Session, has Batiste on melodica and the addition of bass and drums. Ellis and Jonathan blend their pianos with ease and their comfort level would leave to you to believe that they had been playing together for years, which was not the case.
I saw Jonathan Batiste, this year at the Monterey Jazz Festival and can attest to this young man’s prodigious talent. His ease in playing ragtime, standards, and blues is a testament to outstanding training and the influence of growing up in New Orleans. These four bonus tracks added to Homecoming are a real treat and provide an added impetus to the purchase of this CD. You get two pros in Harris and Marsalis, as well as proof with Batiste that NOLA is alive and well with new talent.
TrackList: Homecoming, Deacceleration, Ethereal Moments 1 & 2, Out of This World, Darn that Dream, Have You Met Miss Jones, Zee Blues, Two Piano Louisiana, Hickory and Cognac Streets, Mind and Spirit, Crescent City Montuno, Blues at the End of the Session)
– Jeff Krow