Born: September 1, 1933 | Died: January 16, 2000 Primary Instrument: Piano
During the decades since rising to fame with the Three Sounds in the early 1960's, pianist Gene Harris always stuck true to his singular musical vision…the blues. A masterful pianist with a titanic technique, Harris' every chorus radiated the blues. His solos were melodic, accessible and swinging yet quite sophisticated and full of personal ideas, his own chord voicings, flavored with the church. While the listener has a good idea what to expect from a Gene Harris record, the pianist never fails to surprise.
Gene Harris was born September 1, 1933 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, where he was first attracted to music when he was four. Locally, Harris was attracted to the music of bandleader Charles Metcalf's group and was inspired to try to pick out songs on the piano. Harris also enjoyed the music he heard in church and the boogie- woogie records of his parents (one can detect Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons all over Harris' playing). Swing, gospel and blues combined in a humid eutectoid to form the rue of his piano style.
Harris quickly developed as a pianist, having many opportunities to play music while serving in the Army (1951 - 54). Following his discharge he originally formed the Four Sounds, who by 1956 abandoned their original plan to include a tenor-saxophonist and renamed themselves the Three Sounds. Joining Harris in the original line up of the band was bassist Andy Simpkins (1932 - 1999) and drummer Bill Dowdy (b. 1933).
For the next 15 years, the trio made many notable recordings for Blue Note and other labels as well as supporting such musicians as Lester Young, Lou Donaldson, Nat Adderley, Johnny Griffin, Anita O'Day, Stanley Turrentine and Sonny Stitt, among others. In 1973, the Three Sounds disbanded, leaving Harris to pursue a solo career from which he retired to Boise, Idaho in 1977 where he continued to perform locally.
Harris' retirement was short lived, coming to an end when the pianist was asked by vibraphonist Milt Jackson to join him on the recording Soul Route (Pablo, 1984/2002). This led to Harris' fruitful collaboration with bassist Ray Brown, leading to Harris' association with Concord Records and the release of a string of well- received recordings as leader.
In 1996 Boise, Idaho business leaders, educators and musicians lead by Gene Harris the Gene Harris Endowment, providing scholarships for jazz music students at Boise State University. In 1998, this group continued their commitment by forming the Gene Harris Jazz Festival. Gene brought together the best jazz artists to perform in public concerts at night and work with aspiring young musicians during the day. Entering its eleventh season the Gene Harris Jazz Festival remains a major focus of the Gene Harris Endowment.
Gene Harris released his final disc October 12, 1999, Alley Cats (Concord Jazz). Harris suffered from renal disease and on January 16, 2000, at 66, passed away awaiting a kidney transplant.
Live in London
Tracks: No Greater Love; Blue Monk; My Funny Valentine; In a Mellow Tone; Misty; Blues Closer.
Personnel: Gene Harris: piano; Jim Mullen: guitar; Andrew Clyendert: bass; Martin Drew: drums.
Tracks: Old Funky Gene's; Blues For Jezebel; Listen Here; C.C. Rider; Sidewinder; Down Home Blues; Uptown Sop; Ode To Billy Joe; Sweet Georgia Brown; Put It Where You Want It.
Personnel: Gene Harris: piano; Jeff Hamilton: drums; Luther Hughes: bass; Jack McDuff: Hammond b-3 organ; Ron Eschete: guitar; Niki Harris: vocals.
Tracks: Sweet And Lovely; Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out; Until The Real Thing Comes Along; This Masquerade; At Last; Everything Happens To Me; Black And Blue; When You Wish Upon A Star; You Don't Know What Love Is; That's All; Angel Eyes.
Personnel: Gene Harris: piano; Ron Eschete: guitar; Harold Jones: drums; Paul Humphrey: bass.
Live at Otter Crest
Tracks: Sweet Lorraine; My Foolish Heart; A Little Blues There; Battle Hymn Of The Republic; Shiny Stockings; Cute.
Personnel: Gene Harris: piano; John Heard: bass; Jimmie Smith: drums.
The Best of the Concord Years
Tracks: (Disc 1) Uptown Sop; Captain Bill; Blues For Sam Nassi; Summertime; Don't Be That Way; Listen Here; Creme De Menthe; You Are My Sunshine; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Will You Still Be Mine; Black And Blue; Like A Lover. (Disc 2) Blues For Rhonda; This Light Of Mine; Take The "A" Train; Sweet Georgia Brown; Old Funky Gene's; That's All; Cottontail; Lean On Me; Down Home Blues; Put It Where You Want It.
Personnel: Gene Harris: piano; Curtis Stigers: vocals; Ernie Watts: alto saxophone; Scott Hamilton, Teddy Edwards, Red Holloway, Stanley Turrentine, Bob Cooper: tenor saxophone; Jon Faddis, Harry "Sweets" Edison: trumpet; Jack McDuff: organ; Ron Eschete, Frank Potenza, Herb Ellis: guitar; Luther Hughes, Ray Brown: bass; Mickey Roker, Jeff Hamilton, Harold Jones, Lewis Nash, Paul Humphrey, Paul Kriebich: drums; Gregg Field: tambourine; Cherie Buckner, Pastor Ralph E. Beechum: backgrround vocals); The Philip Morris Superband, The Gene Harris All Star Big Band.
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