I first had a chance to hear Eddie Harris while i was living in California in the early nineties. back then, i often played at a spot named Jazz Etc. which was situated around Leimert Park, an area in South Central L.A. with a rich music and arts scene. while i was backstage, i was introduced to Mr. Harris who promptly asked me what my sign is. when i told him, he started into a short monologue covering astrology, the planets, etc. i had absolutely no idea what he was talking about and wasn’t sure if he was just putting me on or if he was really serious because the whole time he talked to me, he had a this far away, knowing smile on his face. later that night, he got up to do a song but instead of playing horn, he did a scat solo. maybe scat isn’t quite the right word for what he did; it sounded somewhat like yodeling. at times, similar to things i’ve heard by the great vocalist Dwight Tribble, and to what Leon Thomas did on Pharoah Sander’s Karma, on the song, “The Creator Has A Master Plan”. the sounds that came from him were incredible. wild arpeggios and interval leaps set against the backdrop of a familiar song (i don’t remember what it was, probably a standard or a blues). the crowd, mainly an older audience of serious blues fans, loved it. i loved it too, kind of like how i love a rollercoaster ride- after i’m safely back on the ground. it was really bluesy but very out there. i didn’t know what to think at the time. a lot of what he was doing went right over my head, but i was fascinated and curious. i had heard some of his music prior to that. my dad had the record he did with Les McCann called Swiss Movement that featured the songs, “Compared To What” and “Cold Duck Time”. and of course i was familiar with “Freedom Jazz Dance” (his version and the Miles Davis version). i also remember another record my dad had called The Best Of Eddie Harris. anyway, shortly after that experience i bought a book that he wrote called The Intervallistic Concept, an amazing compilation of exercises and his thoughts on music. like his scat solo, the book was WAY over my head, so i eventually lost interest in it out of pure frustration. i also lost track of my copy of the book but i plan to find it again to see if, some 20 odd years later, things make a little more sense to me. a while later i got a hold of a cassette tape of a duo with Harris and Ellis Marsalis called Homecoming, an awesome recording. “Love For Sale” is featured on a twofer cd called The In Sound/ Mean Greens. there is a lot of great, funky music on these albums. both recordings feature the incredible rhythm section of Cedar Walton on piano, Ron Carter on bass and the one and only Billy Higgins on drums. in addition, a really nice trumpeter named Ray Codrington shares the front line with Harris on many of the tracks. when i heard Harris’ solo on “Love For Sale”, the previous experiences mentioned above made a little more sense to me. i love this solo! of course there’s all those quartal patterns that are pretty amazing given the tempo of the song, but what i love most is his sound and how he hits those fat high notes and will drop a really bluesy line into the mix from time to time to let listeners know where it’s all coming from… there’s so much to Eddie Harris. he was a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, lyricist, comedian, author and a pioneer, among other things. there’s more to him than i can possibly touch on here. anyone who’s interested in knowing more about him should go to Eddie Harris.com


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26. December 2009 by james
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