The Three Sounds – Groovin’ Hard – Live at the Penthouse, 1964-1968 – Resonance

by | Dec 18, 2016 | Jazz CD Reviews

It’s all good…

The Three Sounds – Groovin’ Hard – Live at the Penthouse, 1964-1968 – Resonance, 51:30 (1/13/17) ****:

(Gene Harris – piano/ Andy Simpkins – bass/ Bill Dowdy, Kalil Madi, or Carl Burnett – drums)

It may come as a surprise to hardcore Blue Note Records fans that the Three Sounds were the best selling artists from the venerable label during the 1958-1962 period that they recorded for Blue Note. Their bluesy soul jazz piano trio recordings were addictive to the public. They recorded seventeen sessions for Blue Note at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio, and backed both Stanley Turrentine and Lou Donaldson, two soul jazz legends. Their music was mainstream jazz with strong blues and gospel influences. It was the blues piano voicings of leader Gene Harris that made the Three Sounds special.

Resonance Records has again stepped up in their efforts of issuing significant previously unknown live jazz from well recorded sources. The Penthouse club in Seattle opened in 1962 and was active for seven years. Jim Wilke, a local jazz expert from KING-FM recorded many live Penthouse shows and has assisted Resonance Records honchos, George Klabin and Zev Feldman by providing the tapes from the Three Sounds sets at the club. Gene Harris and bassist Andy Simpkins were on board from the 1964-1968 time period. Original drummer Bill Dowdy held down the drum chair until 1966, and he appears here on four of the ten tracks. The other six tunes are split evenly between drummers Kalil Madi and Carl Burnett.

Jazz standards were chosen for this release. They range from Neil Hefti’s “Girl Talk” and Johnny Mandel’s sublime “The Shadow of Your Smile,” Ray Brown’s “A.M. Blues” to band originals “Blue Genes,” “Rat Down Front” and “The Boogaloo.” What they all share in common is a heavy groove, catchy riffs, and Gene Harris’ soulful piano. Listening to this group’s live recordings fifty years later is a real treat.

Resonance has done their usual classy archival quality job by providing a 20-page booklet with rare photos; essays from Klabin, Feldman, Jim Wilke, and jazz historian Ted Panken. Panken interviewed pianists Monty Alexander and Benny Green, who sing the praises of Gene Harris. Resonance may also have some limited edition, hand-numbered 180gm LPs left from the November Record Store Black Friday event. The LPs were mastered by Bernie Grundman, and will be a collector’s item. Three Sounds fans should jump on purchasing either the vinyl now, or the CD on its release next month.

TrackList:  Girl Talk, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Blue Genes, The Shadow of Your Smile, Rat Down Front, Yours is My Heart Alone, A.M Blues, Bluesette, Caesar and Cleopatra (film theme), The Boogaloo

—Jeff Krow

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