In last week’s installment of Jazz For A Saturday Night, our intrepid reporter (that would be yours truly) talked about the 2007 release, “re-imagination” by the young piano phenomenon, Eldar. This week I was going to break with tradition and write about another of Eldar’s albums, one that is a bit more “jazzy.” Having given the matter more thought, I have decided to hold off for a while and tackle that later in the summer.
Instead, I’ll be talking about Herb Harris, someone I have wanted to write about for some time, but about whom there is amazingly little information available online. Much of what is out there is the same bare-bones basics repeated.
Harris was born in Washington, D.C., on July 8, 1968 and presently lives in The Bronx, New York. He took up the saxophone while still in high school, first alto then tenor. Harris has played with Marcus Roberts, and during his time with the Wynton Marsalis Septet he toured a good part of the world. In the early 1990’s he was a member of the group “The Tough Young Tenors,” which teamed him with Walter Blanding Jr., James Carter, Time Warfield Jr., and Todd Williams. He was also featured in the second version of the group, “Jazz Futures” in 1992.
While he is a talented sax player with impeccable control of his instrument, Harris has not exactly been prolific at releasing albums. He has, in fact, released only two albums under his own name that I can find. The one I want to talk about is the most recent, his 2008 release “Some Many Second Chances, Volume 1.”
The personnel for this one include:
Herb Harris, tenor and soprano sax, vocal (track 6 only)
Roy Dunlap, piano
Greg Williams, bass
Robert Rucker, drums
“Some Many Second Chances” offers us six songs, all written by Harris. Neither the liner notes nor Harris’ web site offers any background information about the tunes, so we are left with only the music to speak for itself.
Track one is titled, “A Two-Per To Fill,” about as enigmatic a title as you could hope to find. If it was Harris’ intention to write a happy song, he has hit a home run with this one. It is bright and lively, and when it finishes you are going to ask yourself, “Where has this guy been all my life?” You’ll be repeating that more than once before the album is finished.
The second song, “Some Many Second Chances,” is a bit mellower but still has that bright touch to it. If I were prone to fantasy I would say that the day Harris wrote this song, his pen was filled with sunlight instead of ink. Ooooh. Pretty clever, eh? No, I don’t think so either, but part of me just had to say it anyway. 😉
Let’s just say that the guys do a great job on this one, not the least of whom is Harris, fingers flying up and down the keys, not only hitting note after note flawlessly but drawing from them the simple emotion of pure pleasure. When Harris steps back briefly and allows Dunlap on piano to take the lead, the perfection continues and the group as a whole, playing separately yet somehow together, floors you with the beauty of their combined efforts, the embodiment of “the whole is greater than the parts”.
Track three is an alternate take of the title track, “Some Many Second Chances.” I have mixed feelings about alternate takes in general, especially when they are included on a CD that has a limited amount of room to begin with. Regardless, I think you will find that this particular alternate take is enjoyable enough to warrant a listen.
Next we have the longest song on the album, “For Someone Special.” This is a somewhat mellow song, more suited to a slow dance late at night, after the guests have left, the lights are low, and it’s just you and your special someone. Harris has switched to the tenor sax for this one, and the lower register brings the emotional level down also. Harris is superb on his instrument, and this quietly beautiful song will surely please.
“Toy Soldiers,” up next, opens appropriately enough with drummer Rucker giving us a military-style cadence. Then Dunlap’s piano joins him followed in short order by Harris and Williams. This is a great song, and when Harris takes a break and allows the rhythm section free reign, the boys make the most of it. Harris does finally return, and armed with his alto sax he and the guys wow you to the very end.
The final track is called “In A Little Minute,” another title that it would be nice to know what it means. It opens lively enough with Dunlap on piano before Harris steps forward and… sings. Actually, he does a very good job, considering that singing is a sideline for him. His voice is clear and unpretentious, and not at all unpleasant. When he finally returns to the alto sax, you almost find yourself wishing he had continued… almost. J
All-in-all, I have to say that I would be extremely surprised if you did not find “Some Many Second Chances, Volume 1” to be an outstanding addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
“Some Many Second Chances, Volume 1” can be ordered on Harris’ web site, which also includes a very brief bio of him.
Thank you for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
Your comments about this article and/or the subject are welcome! Please use the “Add a comment” area below. Rude, abusive comments and spam will be deleted.
Copyright © 2013 by Al Evans. All rights reserved.