Gene Harris

Big Band Soul: Live at Town Hall, N.Y.C./World Tour 1990

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The vast majority of Gene Harris' Concord albums of the '80s and '90s were small-group efforts, which is probably just as well because the acoustic pianist had more room to stretch out and improvise when he was leading a trio, quartet, or quintet. But Harris did have a chance to oversee a big band when he led the Philip Morris Superband in the late '80s and early '90s. In 2002, Concord reissued Harris' two albums with the Superband -- Live at Town Hall, N.Y.C. and World Tour 1990 -- as the double-CD Big Band Soul. While Live at Town Hall, N.Y.C. was recorded at a New York concert in 1989, World Tour 1990 was recorded in a Sydney, Australia, studio the following year. Despite the fact that one is a live album and the other is a studio date, the albums are quite similar. Both favor arrangements that are very mindful of Count Basie, and both are enjoyable even if they are rather staid and fall short of essential. Nonetheless, there are some noteworthy soloists on this two-CD set, including tenor man James Moody on "Old Man River," trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison on "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," and alto saxophonist Jerry Dodgion on Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley" (which finds the saxman paying tribute to longtime Ellington altoist Johnny Hodges). Vocalists, thankfully, are not excluded; Ernie Andrews has some pleasing spots on "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and "I'm Just a Lucky So and So," while Ernestine Anderson is featured on "There Is No Greater Love" and "You're My Everything." Big Band Soul isn't recommended to casual listeners, but serious collectors will want to hear this double-CD (assuming they haven't already purchased the two albums separately).

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