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Barry Harris: For the Moment

Harris is a fine pianist and plays well here; this is a good album. Having said that let me state that I have problems with his elevation to icon by some jazz fans and musicians, and question whether his influence as a teacher and pianist has been an unmixed blessing.

For many years Harris has been a preservationist. Born in 1929, he played bop as a Detroit teenager, and like many other young pianists of that time became, in his words, “a member of the Bud Powell school.” However, when he began recording in New York in the mid ’50s, Harris had evolved away from Bud to a degree. His thoughtful, sensitive work had something in common with Hank Jones’ and Tommy Flanagan’s, men who owed something to early boppers Powell and Al Haig, but had developed their own take on them, emphasizing rhythmic smoothness and song-like lines. Check out Harris’ lovely playing with Thad Jones on a1956 Blue Note album for an example of his playing in this vein.

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