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Gene Harris: In His Hands

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Joined by his daughter, Niki, and a few fellow Boise residents, pianist Harris gives us one of his most soulful recordings yet in this program of gospel songs. Long noted for his funkiness, Harris dedicates himself to this, his “dream” project, with his not inconsiderable powers of pianistic persuasion and the results are exceedingly joyous.

Accompanied by his quartet (Ron Eschete, guitar; Luther Hughes, bass; Paul Humphrey, drums) and guest Jack McDuff on Hammond B-3, Harris is at his most compelling on “This Little Light of Mine.” Here, with McDuff on board, he backs up Pastor Ralph E. Beechum (an associate of Harris’ during his disco period) whose clear, persuasive voice is also heard to fine effect on the traditional “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and the foot-stomping “(He’s Got the) Whole World in His Hands,” where he and Niki exult.

The real surprise of this CD is Cherie Buckner, whose potent vocals on “Everything Must Change” (“nothing stays the same, the young become the old”) are a revelation. Her assured singing also enhances the equally-relaxed “Lord I’ve Tried” and the uptempo “Operator.” Curtis Stigers, another Boise “neighbor” digs into “Lean On Me” and “Amazing Grace” with feeling-of course, it’d be hard to loaf on “Grace” with McDuff manning the B-3 as only he can. This CD is a highly successful blend of blues, jazz and gospel that ought to clear out those cobwebs of the soul.