To any observer of the current jazz scene, two facts about Detroit musicians stand out sharply. One is that in recent years there has been a remarkably heavy and steady flow of jazz talent surging out of that city (a quick and undoubtedly incomplete list would include Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd, Paul Chambers, Yusef Lateef, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, the Jones brothers--Hank, Thad and Elvin; and so on). The second fact is that just about every such Detroiter will on the slightest provocation or even with no real excuse at all, rave on at length about the very considerable abilites and strong influence, both musical and personal, of a pianist named Barry Harris.
After a while, Barry Harris began to take on the qualities of a myth, and since he only rarely and fleetingly left Detroit, most people had no opportunity to check legend against facts. Then, early in 1960, Cannonball Adderley made a telephone call to Detroit. He was in need of a replacement for his quintet's riginal pianist, Bobby Timmons. Barry accepted the job, and the myth was blown away--he had every bit as much to say on the piano as had been claimed for him.
This album offers quite a bit of testimony to that effect. It was recorded after Barry had had about three months in which to succeed in meshing fully with his two superb colleagues in the Adderley rhythm section, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes (the latter, incidentally, being still another young comer from Detroit), who provide his backing here. It was also, by deliberate choice, recorded as a "live" performance during the Adderley band's return engagement at The Jazz Workshop, scene of their triumphantly best-selling first album--The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco. And the enthusiastic response to the pianist's work on the part of the very hip Workshop audience, which can be heard on these grooves, suggests strongly that this club will be something of a lucky-piece for Barry, too.
This debut album for Riverside showcases his basically lyrical and thoroughly swinging style in an impressively varied repertoire. There are three Harris originals: "Curtain Call," [mp3] a catchily-Latinish "Lolita," and "Morning Coffee" (the latter a blues titled in honor of what is about the only available beverage in San Francisco after the two-in-the-morning closing time). There is a highly funky version of Louis Jordan's one-time pop hit, "Is You Is . . ." (one of several tunes to feature brilliant Sam Jones bass solos); a rich ballad treatment of "Don't Blame Me;" another effective touch of Latin rhythms on "Star Eyes;" and two notable tunes by modern jazz giants: Gillespie's "Woody'n You" and Parker's "Moose the Mooche."
Harris left Detroit only once--for three months on the road with Max Roach in '56--before Adderley's call. When asked why he had suddenly broken his anti-travel pattern, Barry noted that he had long admired Cannonball and the others and had known Lou Hayes in Detroit, but then just shrugged and added: "I don't really know why, except that I just figured it was time." On listening to this album, I think a lot of people are going to agree that it certainly is time for Barry Harris!
--ORRIN KEEPNEWS, from the liner notes.