Bill Harris

A Knight in the Village

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This is a live recording of a club gig in which it sounds like the fellow with the tape recorder moved closer to the stage between sides. Either that or the drummer, Denzil Best, started playing louder. Basically, this has a substandard recording sound that could certainly detract from enjoyment, but probably won't for the experienced jazz listener because the playing is so strong and the group represents such an interesting combination of musicians. It is one of the earliest recordings of trombonist Bill Harris in his discography, but he actually hands out plenty of the solo space to his talented partners. These include Lennie Tristano and one of this pianist's regular playing partners, guitarist Billy Bauer. This is not the subdued, cool playing often associated with Tristano, however. The title track builds up with riffing behind the leader's soloing much like some kind of heavy swing session. On a track such as this, one can hear the influence Harris must have had on the more rootsy avant-garde trombonists such as Roswell Rudd and Grachan Moncur. Elsewhere his ballad chops are shown to great advantage on a short medley of "Body and Soul" and "Sweet Lorraine," as he plays intricate melodic passages with a pure, sweet tone. The opening track, a version of "What Is This Thing Called Love," kicks off with hearty piano and guitar solos minus any formalized theme statement, a typical Tristano move. The pianist is in wonderful form throughout this recording, playing both busy, full-blooded runs and also demonstrating superb use of space in his accompaniment to the inventive Bauer, as well as chordal punctuations, some of which are so sharply recorded they sound like he is dropping an anvil on the keyboard from the ceiling above. The rhythm team behind him is good, but how good is a bit hard to tell because of the under-recording of both bass and drums. Tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips is a tasty player with good tone who blends well with Harris, but in the final analysis, one would have to admit it is the pianist and guitarist that really carry the session. Someone in the crowd yells out "Yeah!" or other forms of encouragement so many times that they practically deserve a credit on the record for vocals. But seeing as how the composers of the tunes weren't even credited, this might be too much to expect.

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