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Maureen Malloy Suggests: Elegant Soul, The Life and Music of Gene Harris

The phrase "elegant soul" could describe numerous things: a person, a fashion, a way one deals with life. But after listening to Gene Harris' 1968 recording, I realized that the phrase perfectly describes Harris' style as a pianist. Beautifully accompanied by Andy Simpkins on bass and Carl Burnett on drums (the other "Two Sounds"), Harris plays in the classy way he has been known for, but this time he incorporated ribbons of gospel and maybe A dollop of funk. When you stir this all together, it equals Elegant Soul.


As if Gene and his Three Sounds were not enough, there is the utter surprise of an orchestra that seems to tie certain tunes together in a very unexpected way. Strings have a knack for causing goosebumps, but when the strings come in behind the Three Sounds doing what they do best, it's magical. Imagine what happens when the vocalists start singing in the background!
Blue Note Records has just reissued Elegant Soul as part of its "Rare Groove Series," which means it is not hard to find even though it was recorded in 1968. I guarantee that there is nothing like this in your collection.