All the rave reviews about this album are justified; this is a superb, sizzling, and very soulful live recording from 1970. According to the liner notes this recording was made "almost as an afterthought" by Blue Note. But afterwards, the label decided not to release the show, keeping it in the Blue Note vaults until it finally saw the light of day in 2000. But patience is rewarded; this is a fantastic album.
Recorded in 1970 but not released until 1996, Live At the "It Club" shows the Three Sounds pulling out funky, gritty rhythms out of their basic bluesy hard-bop sound. The group's funky influences are most noticeable in the rhythm section of drummer Carl Burnette and bassist Henry Franklin, who had been playing with Harris for only a short time when this set was recorded. The rhythm section pushes Harris, making the music loose and swinging – the groove matters more than anything on the album. Occasionally, the energy of the Three Sounds lags, but Live at the "It Club" is an enjoyable piece of grooving soul-jazz.
Pianist Gene Harris' 1992 quartet (with guitarist Ron Eschete, bassist Luther Hughes, and drummer Harold Jones) explores ten wide-ranging selections on this CD. But despite the very different chord changes, they are able to infuse the music with so much soul that the results are consistently bluesy. Among the tunes that Harris and his group explore are Horace Silver's "Strollin'", "Until the Real Thing Comes Along," "Jeannine", "You Make Me Feel So Young", and "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams". An excellent effort.
This two-fer pairs two pivotal and seemingly conflicting recordings in the career of Gene Harris as he entered the 1970s, a period that was to see his trademark rootsy sound embrace the emergent jazz-funk.
Gene Harris never veered closer to mainstream jazz-funk than Tone Tantrum – a slick, propulsive record recalling Donald Byrd's classic sessions with the Mizell brothers (not surprising, given that Byrd turns up on a few tracks here). It's very much a product of its time, channeling influences from underground disco to Stevie Wonder, and remains arguably the most blatantly commercial release in the entire Blue Note catalog.
The Gene Harris Quartet was quite consistent in its many Concord recordings of the 1990s. The group on this disc (pianist Harris, guitarist Ron Eschete, bassist Luther Hughes, and drummer Paul Humphrey) performs soulful and bluesy versions of such songs as "I Remember You", "The Brotherhood of Man", Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder", and even "September Song". All of Harris' records from this era are easily recommended to fans of soul-jazz, soulful hard bop, and blues-oriented jazz.