Friday, July 29, 2011

Eddie Harris – Eddie Who?

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Don’t know much about multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer, Eddie Harris?

Just click on the image below and he’ll tell you all about himself.

Eddie makes me smile; he has fun with the music. Can you tell?

According to the following excerpt by Gene Lees, it seems like he always has.

© -Gene Lees, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The late Bud Freeman, a native of Chi­cago and one of that city's most ardent loyalists, argued that jazz was invented not in New Orleans but in Chicago. It's debat­able, of course, but if you accept that jazz is an art of stellar improvising soloists, then Bud had a point, because it was in Chicago that Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines and Jimmie Noone and Bix Beiderbecke and Benny Goodman (only Goodman a native) matured and honed their craft, and set the direction of the music.

I lived in Chicago from 1959 to 1962, the period when I was editor of Down Beat, and the city was (as it is now) an extraordinarily fertile garden of jazz, madly florid with talents both native and imported. Eddie Harris was one of the natives. He was unknown outside the city at that time. I have delightful memories of cruising from one club to another with Eddie to visit our friends. I thought he was an outstanding musician, an original com­poser, and a fine player on several instru­ments. He was fascinated by all sorts of sonorities, experimenting with trombone fitted with reed mouthpieces, tenor saxo­phone fitted with trombone mouthpiece, and more. He'd show me these tricks at his house, and we'd laugh. Tenor, though, was his main instrument. He made an album for the small Chicago label called Veejay. One of the tunes he recorded was the theme from the film Exodus, which became a huge hit, and launched Eddie as a national and later international name.

Eddie moved to Los Angeles and recorded with all manner of the best jazz musicians. In 1969 he teamed up with pianist and singer Les McCann. They gave a performance at the Montreux Jazz Fes­tival, the recording of which cranked both their careers a notch higher.

Eddie once told me that he had asked the great tenor saxophonist Lester Young a question about embouchure. Pres told him, "I can only tell you about my mouth­piece in my mouth. I can't tell you about your mouthpiece in your mouth.”

Eddie used to improvise satires on the blues as we'd ride around Chicago in his car, laughter trailing in the night.” [John Reeves and Gene Lees, Jazz Lives: 100 Portraits in Jazz, p. 128]

More of Eddie’s fun music is on tap in the following video. The tune is Ambidextrous. Stay with this one as Eddie really turns it loose after Ralphe Armstrong’s fine bass solo.

And here is a video tribute to vocalist Madeline Eastman in tandem with the art work of the great Modigliani that features her performance of Eddie’s most famous composition – Freedom Jazz Dance.

Are we having fun, yet?

I certainly hope so as Eddie and others who perform his music obviously did.