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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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GENE HARRIS QUARTET
Live in London
Resonance HCD2001

 

 


 
 
1. There is No Greater Love
2. Blue Monk
3. My Funny Valentine
4. In a Mellow Tone
5. Misty
6. Blues Closer
 
 
Gene Harris – Piano
Jim Mullen – Guitar
Andrew Cleyndert – Bass
Martin Drew – Drums
Recorded Live at the Pizza Express – London, May 1966. 
 

I heard Gene Harris with this Quartet live in Jersey in the same year this recording was made, I was recovering from a rather serious operation at the time, and attending the concert did wonders for my spirits! 

Gene Harris is unfortunately no longer with us. He passed away in January 2000, a sad loss to the jazz world of one of its finest pianists. I was overjoyed to see that this record had been released because I enjoyed the band so much. Martin Drew, who for a long time was the drummer in the Oscar Peterson Trio, played with all the taste and drive he regularly exhibited with OP. Jim Mullen was his usual swinging and whimsical self, slipping in the odd quote from time to time. Andrew Cleyndert was a tower of strength on the double bass and he was also the recording engineer for the session. 

Gene Harris was an amazing pianist. I have not heard any recording session on which he played where his tremendous drive, never-ending ideas and boundless enthusiasm did not shine through.  

To look at the tracks in detail: There is No Greater Love is surely one of the best jazz standards of all time and this version is one of the finest I have heard. Gene swings throughout and continually provides new lines of improvisation, whilst always staying with the chord sequence. This is wonderfully accessible, delightful happy jazz. Jim Mullen follows Gene and continues in similar vein and continues to delight the ears. Andrew Cleyndert is next up with a fine bass solo. Gene trades fours with Martin Drew alternating with Jim Mullen. Gene takes the song out in his superb style. A word about Martin’s drumming throughout this record: it is easy to understand why he was in demand with Oscar Peterson when you hear it. 

Blue Monk is taken at a brighter than usual tempo and immediately the Quartet settles into the kind of groove that only happens when you listen to the best. 

My Funny Valentine gets more gentle treatment, but just as satisfying to listen to. Gene solos throughout. 

In a Mellow Tone is a Duke Ellington tune based on another tune (Rose Room) which has become a jazz standard; again everything falls into place beautifully. Harris solos first, followed by Mullen; both are in excellent form. 

Erroll Garner's Misty is another fine standard; Gene gives it an individual flavour without ever destroying its beauty. Just catch the end of this and wonder at the man’s ability! 

Few people could play the blues like Gene Harris, which the Blues Closer amply demonstrates. 

This record has brought me so much pleasure. I can tell what’s going on and there is no fusion creating confusion. If anyone is in doubt of the quality of  UK jazz musicians, Gene Harris said at the concert in Jersey, “If these three guys were in New York they would be working all the time.” A fine tribute from a top US performer. 

If you add anything to your jazz record collection this year, make it this CD. 

Don Mather
 

 

 

 



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