In the liner notes that he wrote for Bull's Eye in 1968, Mark Gardner quotes pianist Walter Bishop as calling Barry Harris "one of the very last of the bebop purists that we have on the piano." Bishop knew what he was talking about; back in 1968, many acoustic pianists were choosing modal post-bop or avant-garde jazz over bop -- and some were taking up electric keyboards and starting to explore a fascinating new jazz-rock-funk amalgam that came to be called fusion. But Harris, who was 38 when he recorded Bull's Eye, was still a hardcore bebopper along the lines of Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. On this 1968 session, the Detroit native offers no acknowledgment of '60s trends in jazz piano -- he doesn't acknowledge McCoy Tyner's modal post-bop any more than he acknowledges Cecil Taylor's free jazz. And that's just as well, because Harris is great at what he does. Unlike Tyner, Taylor, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, or Andrew Hill, Harris was always a follower rather than a leader. But again, he's great at what he does, and on Bull's Eye, Harris excels whether he is embracing Monk's "Off Minor" or providing original tunes that range from the exhilarating title song to the Latin-tinged "Barengo." By 1968 standards, Bull's Eye is hardly groundbreaking; Harris' solos sound like they could have been recorded ten or 20 years earlier. But in terms of quality and skillful musicianship, he doesn't let his followers down. Nor do Harris' sidemen, who include trumpeter Kenny Dorham, saxman Charles McPherson (who is heard on tenor instead of his usual alto), baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Billy Higgins. Die-hard bop enthusiasts can't go wrong with Bull's Eye, which Fantasy reissued on CD in 2002 under its Original Jazz Classics (OJC) imprint.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson