Primary Instrument: Vocal
The 2004 New York Nightlife Award Winner For 'Outstanding Male Jazz Vocalist 10/15/2007 2:00:53 PM - Amidst a serious shortage of great male jazz singers, Allan Harris is a blessing. With a rich velvety voice and a dynamic stage manner, Harris’ voice and demeanor project the warmth of Tony Bennett, the bite and rhythmic sense of Sinatra, and the sly elegance of Nat ‘King' Cole. Delivering a repertoire of familiar and beloved standards, Harris’ romantically appealing voice reaches out with the heartbreaking depth that caresses a song, giving each it’s fullest respect by combining the best of the past with his unique gifts to create something fresh and distinctive. Besides having total vocal control, Harris is also a superb musician with a natural ear, and the ability to accompany himself on the guitar while retaining his hallmark pinpoint vocal accuracy and incredibly clear diction without affectation. Now, with his new project, “Cross That River,” Allan Harris displays his gift for song writing and story telling. “Cross That River” is the first recording in what will be a trilogy telling the amazing story of the Black West. With this new project, Harris shows with conviction, that not only does he have something to bring to the world of jazz, but that he is one of the leading male singer/songwriters of his generation.
Allan Harris has thrilled audiences all over the world and debuted many unique one-of-a-kind performances. A few years ago Harris was invited to initiate a jazz series at Sotheby's where he created an historic event by teaming up with one of the greatest piano accompanists of all time, Tommy Flanagan. Flanagan, who was Ella Fitzgerald’s accompanist for twenty years, had sworn off accompanying vocalists, but Harris was able to change his mind. They called the evening “Our Favorite Songs,” and when word got out, National Public Radio requested permission to record it live. The following year Harris reprised that concert by performing “Our Favorite Songs-2” with pianist Cyrus Chestnut. His last concert series at Sotheby’s was a long awaited tribute to the great Nat “King” Cole, which was recorded and aired on XM Radio. Harris also created a concert tribute to Billy Strayhorn with a lecture provided by the author of Lush Life, David Hajdu. This lecture/concert series toured the country and was last performed at the Kennedy Center where it was also recorded by National Public Radio’s Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater. Harris has since reprised his tribute to Nat “King” Cole at the Kennedy Center where it was recorded for his next release. Recently, Harris was awarded the Chamber Music America Residency Grant for his Cross That River project which will tour schools in Harlem in 2007. This past summer, NPR featured Cross That River on their program “All Things Considered,” and the Aspen Writers Foundation debuted a new series entitled “Lyrically Speaking” featuring Allan Harris and the Cross That River band. This was a ground breaking concert/interview conducted by American Songwriter Magazine editor Paul Zollo.
Harris has sung and recorded with some of the best jazz pianists in the world: Cyrus Chestnut, Bill Charlap, Eric Reed, Benny Green, Bruce Barth, and Tommy Flanagan. He has performed at sold-out venues such as Berlin’s Komische Opera House; Israel - a 10 day standing-room-only tour; Finland’s Espoo Jazz Festival; Sweden’s Linkoping Jazz Festival; New Zealand’s Queenstown Jazz Festival; Germany’s Swing IT Concert/TV Series with the New York Voices and James Morrison; Lugano, Switzerland with Jon Faddis and the Big Band de Lausanne singing the lead in Duke Ellington’s Sacred Mass which was recorded live. He has recorded numerous CDs: Setting The Standard, It's a Wonderful World, Here Comes Allan Harris and the Metropole Orchestra, The Music of Duke Ellington, Laid Back, Love Came, he Songs of Strayhorn, Long Live the King, in honor of Mr. Cole, and Cross That River. Allan’s recordings have featured Ray Brown, Mark Whitfield, Eric Reed, Clark Terry, Claudio Roditi, and Latin Grammy winner, Nestor Torres. Tony Bennett has praised Allan’s technique and integrity and called him “my favorite new singer.” At a Bennett sponsored showcase in New York, Sammy Cahn introduced Harris: Frank Sinatra says his favorite singer is Tony Bennett, and Tony Bennett says his favorite singer is Allan Harris.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Harris was surrounded by music. His mother was a classical pianist and his aunt was an opera singer who later turned to the blues. Because Aunt Theodosia attracted the attention of famed music producer Clarence Williams, (the man who made Bessie Smith famous) he became a regular dinner guest and often brought along other performers such as Louis Armstrong. Once Armstrong even baby-sat and terrified young Allan with his frog like voice. Because of this musical influence in his young life, Allan chose o become a musician early on when his mother insisted he sing “Blue Velvet” for school at the age of eight.
Harris is also a master clinician and teacher and has taught master classes at JAS Aspen Academy working alongside Christian McBride and Loren Schoenberg; Berklee School of Music, The Jazz Vocal Coalition, City College’s Aaron Davis Hall, Lausanne, Switzerland’s Jazz Music School, to name a few. Harris has sat on the Kennedy Center panel to choose the next U.S. Jazz Ambassador and has judged the Thelonious Monk Awards Vocal Competition. Most recent performances include: Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall: 2004-Opening for Cassandra Wilson during the inaugural week and debuting a new work by Wynton Marsalis entitled “Suite for Human Nature;” January 21 & 22, 2005 - The Kennedy Center: Unforgettable, The Songs of Nat 'King' Cole; and March 11, 2005 - The Legacy Series at Aaron Davis Hall, in a double bill with Abbey Lincoln performing the songs of Harlem's great composers. On March 25, 2006 Harris debuted Cross That River at Kennedy Center for Country Music Week. BET Jazz has recorded and aired several Allan Harris concerts with hosts Lou Rawls and Ramsey Lewis. CBS News has conducted 2 interviews with Harris about Cross That River. Will Friedwald, the author of Jazz Singing and Sinatra calls him probably the most exciting singer on the scene. CNN's Showbiz Tonight referred to Harris as one of the three best male jazz vocalists in the country.
Harris is a velvet-voiced jazz singer, with a savvy manner and music in his veins. (Press materials tell us that no less than Louis Armstrong babysat him when Harris was a child.) --variety.com
One of the best male jazz vocalists of his genre. -- Ben Ratliff
Wow! What an incredible CD this is. If you are unfamiliar with Allan Harris as I was, get a hold of this CD and introduce yourself to a wonderful jazz singer and a jewel of an album. -- Edward Blanco