Gene Harris

Ballad Essentials

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This compilation draws 11 tracks from nine Gene Harris albums recorded for Concord Records between 1989 and 1995, and what's striking is how consistent those tracks are. Working at slow tempos, Harris plus his accompanists -- ranging from piano-guitar-bass-drums quartets to a duet with tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton ("At Last"); a trio with organist Jack McDuff and bass player Luther Hughes ("You Don't Know What Love Is"); and, finally, a solo piano piece ("Angel Eyes") -- maintain a bluesy, soulful approach that values expressive, yet precise playing. Harris usually takes the lead, though he makes a wonderful backup musician to Hamilton on the first half of "At Last" before executing a flourish and taking over for some attractive soloing even there. Like many other jazz musicians, Harris really came into his own in his maturity at Concord, and this is a good selection that demonstrates the strength of his overall catalog with the label.

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