One of the most accessible of all jazz pianists, Gene Harris' soulful style (influenced by Oscar Peterson and containing the blues-iness of a Junior Mance) was immediately likable and predictably excellent. After playing in an Army band (1951-1954), he formed a trio with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy which was, by 1956, known as the Three Sounds. The group was quite popular, and recorded regularly during 1956-1970 for Blue Note and Verve. Although the personnel changed and the music became more R&B-oriented in the early '70s, Harris retained the Three Sounds name for his later Blue Note sets. He retired to Boise, ID, in 1977, and was largely forgotten when Ray Brown persuaded him to return to the spotlight in the early '80s. Harris worked for a time with the Ray Brown Trio and led his own quartets in the years to follow, recording regularly for Concord and heading the Phillip Morris Superband on a few tours; 1998's Tribute to Count Basie even earned a Grammy nomination.
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.