Gene Harris

Swingin' the Blues

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A two-disc retrospective of sorts from pianist Gene Harris' long stay at the Concord Jazz label, Swingin' the Blues has a wonderfully cohesive feel. Harris brought a hint of the blues to everything he touched, but in a joyful way, which is why he could always be counted on to swing the blues rather than wallow in it, and his recordings frequently have a kind of churchy, gospel feel to them. His sprightly version of "Cry Me a River" kicks things off here, and tracks like the bold, stuttering "Blues for Gene" and the light funk of Harris' version of Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" show why this pianist is considered a soul-jazz pioneer. A clear high point is reached halfway through the second disc with back-to-back Count Basie tunes, the up-tempo title track "Swingin' the Blues" and the gorgeous ballad "Blue and Sentimental," both of which are drawn from 1987's Tribute to Count Basie. Harris' creative peak was arguably during this autumnal stay at Concord, and Britain's Recall Records has done a good job of presenting a varied sampling of this fruitful period.

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