Gene Harris Quartet – Another Night in London – Resonance Records HCD-2006, 1 hour *****:
(Gene Harris, piano; Jim Mullen, guitar; Andrew Cleyndert, bass; Martin Drew, drums)
This is a follow-up to Gene’s Resonance Records’ issue of 2008, also recorded in London with his British quartet. The six tunes (see below) were never recorded before by the swinging pianist who has been referred to as a blues version of Oscar Peterson. They were taped during a 1996 concert at London’s Pizza Express, and the audio quality is first rate.
All six tracks are substantial offerings of the tunes, in fact they seem to be increasing in length as the CD goes on, ending with an incredible 13½ treatment of Georgia on My Mind. Pianist Harris came to renown as leader of the legendary Three Sounds. During this night in London he was at the height of his considerable powers. His British crew were in the groove with him; drummer Martin Drew had been Oscar Peterson’s drummer. One can hear hints of Peterson, Art Tatum, Errol Garner and even Ahmad Jamal in Harris, but he is a master of his own style. Hearing this fine example of jazz piano trio, I quickly understand why I have trouble getting excited by the majority of the piano trio CDs that come across my desk.
Gershwin’s Lady Be Good has been done by so many jazzmen, but Harris has something fresh and crisp for us, and continues it for a full ten minutes with ease. A bow to the reinterest in bossa nova is Jobim’s Meditation, and it too swings in a fresh new way. Leon Russell’s This Masquerade provides Harris an 11-minute vehicle of sensitive and lyrical improvisation, and while the best jazzmen keep the lyrics in mind while improvising, I’m glad there aren’t any. This must have been a big pizza place, because the crowd doesn’t sound a bit paltry.
TrackList: Sweet Georgia Brown, Meditation, That’s All, Lady Be Good, This Masquerade, Georgia on My Mind
– John Henry