The late Gene Harris’s soulful piano playing was highly accessible, and obviously influenced by the great Oscar Peterson, among others. In 1956, Harris formed the popular trio the Three Sounds, with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy. They recorded for the Blue Note and Verve labels into the 1970s, up until Harris’ retirement in 1977. Harris made a comeback in the eighties, and was especially popular in Europe.
Resonance Records has just released Another Night In London, a companion piece to Live In London (2008), and it is just as stirring as its predecessor. Both sets were recorded at London’s Pizza Express in May 1996, and featured his “European Quartet,” which featured bassist Andy Cleyndert, drummer Martin Drew, and guitarist Jim Mullen.
The disc kicks off with a rousing rendition of the classic “Sweet Georgia Brown,” a real showcase for Harris’ busy style of playing. Right from the start, the London crowd are way into it, enthusiastically applauding the riveting solos of Harris and Mullen.
The quartet then reach back to the great Antonio Carlos Jobim’s debut album, and the song “Meditation.” Jim Mullen’s lengthy guitar solo recalls the style of Les Paul at times here, and drummer Martin Drew gets a chance to shine as well.
For me, the highlight of the six performances contained on Another Night In London is “This Masquerade.” While the Leon Russell song is most closely associated with George Benson, the quartet make it their own here. After a tasty opening section featuring Mullen‘s guitar, Harris comes in and turns the song into a rollicking blues workout.
The big finale is an extended version of “Georgia On My Mind.” This standard has been recorded by hundreds of artists over the years, but Gene Harris brings a unique flavor to the tune. This is a big piano song, and showcases every facet of Harris’ playing style, from blues to soul and even a little boogie-woogie, the man was a master.
Another Night In London stands as an excellent testament to an amazing jazz pianist.