Personnel: Jim Mullen (guitar); Gene Harris (piano); Martin Drew (drums).
Liner Note Author: Don Heckman.
Recording information: The Pizza Express, London, England (05/1996).
Editors: George Klabin; Jonathan Jiskra.
Lured out of retirement by bassist Ray Brown after taking extensive time off from the road, pianist Gene Harris recorded extensively from the mid-'80s until shortly before his untimely death in early 2000. This is the second Resonance CD to come from a 1996 engagement at London's Pizza Express, features the pianist with a group of European musicians (Scottish guitarist Jim Mullen plus two Englishmen, bassist Andrew Clyendert and drummer Martin Drew, the latter of whom worked extensively with Oscar Peterson). While they had not played together prior to this engagement, they are very much on the same wavelength. "Sweet Georgia Brown" opens softly, with Mullen showing a funky touch, but as the piece develops Harris takes hold with his driving soulful technique. The breezy setting of Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova "Meditation" sounds like the musicians have spent a lot of time in Rio de Janeiro, swinging it with boundless energy. Harris injects a good deal of humor into his bluesy take of the standard "Lady Be Good," with ample use of tremolo. The set closes with a rollicking, blues-drenched interpretation of "Georgia on My Mind" (which Mullen manages to fill with hilarious quotes, including John Philip Souza's "The Stars and Stripes Forever") that must have left the audience begging for more. One can only hope more music from this booking emerges on Resonance in the near future. ~ Ken Dryden
JazzTimes (p.62) - "[F]or sheer fun, virtuosity and, yes, surprises, nothing rivals Harris' dashing take on 'Meditation' or the quartet's romping rendition of 'Lady Be Good.'"