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Preminado: BARRY HARRIS Trio

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Barry Harris (p) Joe Benjamin (b) Elvin Jones (drs)   

New York; December 21, 1960 and January 19,1961


  1. My Heart Stood Still (6:31) (Rodgers & hart)

  2. Preminado (5:30) (Barry Harris)

  3. I Should Care (3:33) (Cahn-Stordahl-Weston)

  4. There’s No One But You (4:06) (Evans-Johnson)


  1. One Down (4:35) (Barry Harris)

  2. It’s The Talk of the Town (5:03) (Symes-Neiburg-Livingston)

  3. Play, Carol, Play (4:11) (Barry Harris)

  4. What Is This Thing Called Love? (4:05) (Cole porter)

   BARRY HARRIS is a pianist best described as “a musician’s musician.” This does not mean that he can be fully appreciated only by his fellow performers. Anyone is eligible to listen – and anyone who is partial to tasteful, melodic and swinging piano is apt to be most highly pleased by the contents of this album. But the phrase does mean that musicians have an extraordinarily high regard for his unassuming. Detroit-born artist, and that musicians in particular are delighted by the very deceptive ease of his fluent and lyrical style.

   Fellow jazzmen were responsible for the legends that quickly grew up about Barry’s abilities – so that when he finally left Detroit and showed u elsewhere in the flesh, it was rather surprising to note that he was merely life-sized, although his playing often does reach larger than normal proportions. The present album, Barry’s second for Riverside, should help to realistically cement his reputation and continue to widen his audience. He strides swingingly through a standard like My Heart Stood Still, extracts a maximum of valid emotion from ballad-tempo versions of Talk of the Town and I Should Care (the latter a moody unaccompanied solo), and adds a lightly Latinized touch to revitalize Cole Porter’s What Is This Thing Called Love. There are also three examples of Harris ability to construct tunes of more than passing interest: the unusual Preminado (which got its unusual title when Barry asked us for a word that would suggest a Spanish version of a walk, or promenade); a romping blues called One Down; and the lilting Play, Carol, Play, named after his young daughter.

   Born on December 15, 1929, Barry Doyle Harris was only four when he performed his first piano piece in the church where his mother played regularly. He continued playing in church and taking piano lessons from his mother until 1946, his last year of high school in Detroit. “Then I got to be hip,” he notes. Beginning as a member of a priz3e-winning amateur band that soon graduated to ‘semi-profession’ status by playing at local dances. Barry turned fully professional in 1951. By ’54 he had taken over as house pianist at the Bluebird Club in Detroit, where he worked with many famous visiting jazzmen, including a three-month stint, with Miles Davis.

   In 1956, shortly after the tragic auto accident that took the lives of trumpeter Clifford Brown and pianist Richie Powell, Barry joined the Max Roach group as Powell’s replacement. But after only a few months on the road he decided to return home, becoming house pianist at the Rouge Lounge. There his “on-the-job training” included working with such visiting stars as Lee Konitz, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge and Ben Webster. Having developed a theory of jazz instruction that deals with the major, or 7th scale, Harris also did considerable teaching at this time.

   Although Barry himself had never left Detroit – except for the brief tour with Roach and very occasional recording work in New York and Chicago – word of his striking talents spread amazingly during the late ‘50s. From the traveling musicians and from Detroiters who had relocated in New York (such as Tommy Flanagan, Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd, Paul Cambers and many others) the word went out. Thus by the time he reached his thirtieth birthday, this mild-mannered and most modest pianist had become a living jazz legend.

   Unlike many such futures, however, Barry turned out to be no myth or exaggeration when the opportunity finally came about for the non-Detroit audience to hear him. Early in 1960, Cannonball Adderley asked Barry to join his rapidly ascending quintet. After a few months Harris – who, for al his personal modesty, is a musician with a definite and highly individual awareness of his own musical directions – decided that his style did not fully mesh with that of the surging Adderley band, and they came to a friendly parting. But an important step had been taken: Barry had come out of the comparative seclusion of his home town, and had elected to remain in the New York mainstream. During late 1960 and early ’61 he worked primarily with a group led by his long-standing Detroit friend, Yusef Lateef, and also led his own trio in New York clubs.

   In emphasizing the steady and impressive maturing of Barry’s talents, it is important to take note of his rare degree of interest in the jazz that receded today’s styles. “I listen to the old masters, such as Earl Hines and Jelly Roll Morton,” he says, “because they had an awful lot to say, and just about everything that is done today – no matter how different it may sound – is very largely based on what they did in years gone by. If you are going to listen, you might as well go to the roots.”

Barry’s probing into the past is to particularly to be heard directly in his style, for it is clear that the pianists from whom he has derived the most and for whose work he has the greatest love and respect are the pioneer modernist, Bud Powell, and the late Art Tatum, that remarkable stylist who bridged the gap between the traditional and the modern. But this interest in and understanding of the lessons of the past can be heard in his sense of musical form and the melodic content of his playing.  And it is also expressed in the spirit in which he performs. “You have to enjoy playing,” he insists, “The old-timers did, and that’s one reason why their music is a lasting music. I feel that I play jazz to entertain the listener, and you just can’t do that unless you yourself are entertained at the same time.”

   Barry’s support on this album comes from the wonderfully firm bass of Joe Benjamin (who has worked with an extremely wide variety of leaders, from Fletcher Henderson and Artie Shaw to Gerry Mulligan and Dave Brubeck) and from Elvin Jones, one of today’s most exciting and original young drummers. Jones, a brother of pianist Hank and trumpeter Thad, is another Detroiter, and has most recently been featured with John Coltrane’s quartet. Elvin driving, often explosive style made him seem to us a somewhat strange choice for a trio date. But that was a before-recording opinion. At the sessions it became quite clear what Barry had meant when he explained his selection by saying “Elvin makes me do things I just can’t get to do with most other drummers.” There is a notable drum solo on the album’s title tune, but his consistent and impeccably swinging support is Elvin’s really outstanding achievement here..

   Barry’s precious album for Riverside is –

Barry Harris at The Workshop; with Sam Jones, Louis Hayes (RLP 12-326; Stereo RLP 1177)

   Harris can also be heard on –

Them Dirty Blue: Cannonball Adderley Quintet (RLP 12-322; Stereo RLP 1170)

The Other Side of Benny Golson with Curtis Fuller, Philly Joe Jones (RLP 12-290)

The Texas Twister: Don Wilkerson; with Nat Adderley (RLP 332; Stereo RLP 1186)

   (The present recoding is available in Stereophonic form on RLP 354)




Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF

Back-liner photographs by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK

Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER

Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios

Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp,) on a HYDROFEED lathe.


235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.

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