Reviews Zone

The Three Sounds featuring Gene Harris: Groovin’ Hard * Live At The Penthouse 1964 – 1968 (Resonance Records) Out now





5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)


This never-before-issued live album is an absolutely sparkling gem. I cannot stop playing it. It grooves like a mutha and Gene Harris is on fire on piano. A really, really, really superb release.

Recorded live at Seattle’s legendary Penthouse jazz club, this soulful collection of live recordings were captured over the course of five years during four separate engagements by the legendary Three Sounds featuring Gene Harris. The recording quality is top notch and the material memorable.

The Three Sounds, led by pianist Gene Harris, was one of the premier soul jazz piano trios from the mid-’50s through the 1960s. In its heyday, the Three Sounds was one of the top-selling jazz acts in the world, with a string of hit records on Blue Note Records between 1958 and 1962. During that period, no other Blue Note act sold as many records as the Three Sounds. After they left Blue Note, the Three Sounds also made a number of acclaimed, top-selling albums for Verve, Mercury, Limelight and other labels during their 15 years together.

In addition to the Three Sounds’ recordings, Harris and his pals collaborated with many of the foremost figures in jazz of the era such as Lester Young, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, Johnny Griffin, Anita O’Day, Lou Donaldson and others. Gene Harris was an important influence on a generation of pianists who followed him, such as Monty Alexander, Benny Green and many others. He had monumental technique, but that technique was always put in the service of deep feeling and groove.

Harris’s ever-present groove explains why the Three Sounds have remained relevant into the hip-hop era; a sample of their “Put On Train” was prominently featured in the Beastie Boys song, “What Comes Around” from their album, “Paul’s Boutique”.

Jim Wilke, the Seattle-based jazz radio personality, producer and engineer amassed a large library of tapes by top jazz artists in live performance at the Penthouse during the 60s, recorded during live broadcasts of his KING-FM radio show, Jazz From The Penthouse. Fifty years later Wilke is still active in jazz radio and live recording on location, and estimates he has recorded and produced well over a thousand recordings at clubs, concerts and festivals.

The material on this album, is made up of jazz standards: (“Bluesette,” “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” and “Yours Is My Heart Alone”); soulful treatments of popular tunes of the day (“The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Girl Talk” and the theme from “Caesar and Cleopatra”); and the soulful originals, “Blue Genes”; “Rat Down Front” and “The Boogaloo.” The repertoire is rounded out by Ray Brown’s rousing jazz waltz, “A.M. Blues.” Four of the compositions in the album’s repertoire have never been released on any other Three Sounds’ album: “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Rat Down Front,” “Bluesette” and “The Boogaloo.”

Gene is joined by Andy Simpkins on bass, regualar trio drummer Bill Dowdy on four cuts, Kalil Madi plays drums on three tracks and Carl Burnett on the remaining three. Boy this outfit can swing. But the focus for me is on Gene’s half dozen pairs of hands, or that’s what it sounds like when he’s “at it!”

Born as Eugene Haire, it is such a shame that he passed away in 2000 of kidney failure at just 66-years-old. He recorded circa 60 albums from 1955, and he was also sideman on albums by many top artists including  Nat Adderley, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown,  Benny Carter, BB King and “Brother” Jack McDuff. He appears on more than 10 compilations too.  He played in the Gene Harris Trio from 1956 to 1970.

This faultless album includes 20 tracks of more than 51 minutes of music, along with a 28-page book, with rare photos and essays by Resonance producers Zev Feldman and George Klabin, jazz radio personality and recording engineer Jim Wilke, who recorded all of the material on the album, and noted author and jazz journalist, Ted Panken.



By Simon Redley



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