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Allan Harris: Nobody’s Gonna Love You Better: Black Bar Jukebox Redux

While all the fuss surrounding Gregory Porter is fully justified, Allan Harris is long overdue for as much respect and praise. Indeed, to borrow a Dan Fogelberg reference, they often seem twin sons of different mothers. Harris’ beefy baritone is equally commanding and arresting, and he is just as gifted as a songwriter and as a liaison between jazz and R&B. (Harris is also a monster guitarist when he chooses to be.)

Last year, Harris released Black Bar Jukebox, a crazy quilt of covers and originals that extends from Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore” to Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot.” This companion collection proves just as eclectic and even more satisfying, the canny jumble including a feather-light “Doralice” and soulful “More Today Than Yesterday,” a grandly funkified interpretation of Steely Dan’s “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” and a reading of the Ray Charles hit “Ruby” that eerily channels Nat King Cole, one of Harris’ biggest heroes. Marvin Gaye meets Edwin Starr on Harris’ organ-fueled version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Up From the Skies,” and he artfully navigates the slippery curves of “Moody’s Mood for Love.” Harris adds four of his own compositions, again a heterogeneous mix: the densely atmospheric “Mother’s Love,” satin-lined “Secret Moments,” scorching, sizzling “Swing” and, lifted from his decade-old Cross That River song cycle, a muscular reworking of the rousing mini-drama “Blue Was Angry.”

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