Apr 4, 2015
Jazz only has a few great crooners these days, and few are blessed with the soul of Allan Harris. He has been described by the Miami Herald as an artist blessed with, “the warmth of Tony Bennett, the bite and rhythmic sense of Sinatra, and the sly elegance of Nat ‘King’ Cole,” and his ten recordings as a leader showcase the wide variety of tunes he can interpret. His lives shows in New York have met with great reviews, leading to awards like the New York Nightlife Award for “Outstanding Jazz Vocalist” – which he won three times – the Backstage Bistro Award for “Ongoing Achievement in Jazz,” and the Harlem Speaks “Jazz Museum of Harlem Award.”
Harris’ new album, Black Bar Jukebox, is produced by Grammy winning producer Brian Bacchus, who helped shape the sounds of Norah Jones and Gregory Porter. He has moved Harris’ voice front and center, letting his warm bari-tenor tones lead the way. The result is a highly listenable set of tunes, highlighted by the selection of a number of lesser-known and non-jazz numbers.
Harris handles John Mayer’s “Daughters” and Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot” as if they were classic ballads and blues tunes, respectively. His smoothness on “Stranger on the Shore” is contrasted with the vibrant virtuosity of “I’ve Got the Blues,” a jazzy reworking of “Lester Leaps In” with lyrics by the renowned Eddie Jefferson. Harris’ band is tight, and guitarist Yotam Silberstein is a particularly valuable asset, ably laying down fills on “Stranger on the Shore.”
Podcast 476 is my conversation with Allan Harris, featuring musical selections from Black Bar Jukebox, including “Miami”, “I’ve Got the Blues,” “Daughters” and “Stranger On the Shore” and “But Beautiful” from Convergence, his duo CD with pianist Takana Miyamoto paying tribute to the classic collaboration of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans in the mid-Seventies.