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Barry Harris Serving Up a Heavy Dose of Be-Bop


Pianist Barry Harris is one of the most ardent and authentic interpreters of be-bop--the involved yet wonderfully lyrical music of the '40s and '50s.

Funny, then, that it's Harris' bluesy, muscular playing on trumpeter Lee Morgan's 1965 Blue Note Records classic "The Sidewinder" that is probably best known to most jazz fans. Which is fine with Harris.

"Man, I was walking by a store recently and they were playing 'Sidewinder' and it sounded so good ," said the 63-year-old Detroit native, who makes his first Los Angeles-area appearance in more than a dozen years tonight and Saturday at the Jazz Bakery. "Compared to a lot of things you hear these days, it sounded like heaven."

Still, Harris has made plenty of be-bop albums under his name and with such notables as Sonny Stitt, Coleman Hawkins and Charles McPherson. It follows, then, that when the pianist leads a trio at the Bakery, be-bop will make up his musical menu.

"Bird, Bud, Monk," he said, referring to the music of be-bop progenitors alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. "That's all the audience is going to hear. I love that music the way classicists love Chopin, Bach and Beethoven. The music makes you feel good, oh yeah."

The pianist said that his job in performance is to transmit his joy for the music to the audience. "I want to have the people dig it, to make them feel as if they've been someplace," he said. "I want them to forget about the troubles of the world for a minute."

In the Racks: The recently released "Sanctified Shells" on Antilles Records finds trombonist Steve Turre taking what might seem like a novelty--making music with sea shells--and turning it into art. These are sounds that have never before been heard in jazz.

Turre, who has been playing conch and other large shells for 20 years, carves round, brass-like mouthpieces on his shells, and blows them as if they were horns. The resulting tones are soft, gossamer and remarkably musical.

The album, recorded in January, 1992, finds Turre utilizing two other trombonists--Robin Eubanks and Reynaldo Jorge--on shells, and the three create some delicate, compelling layered passages. On the title track, Turre plays earthy muted trombone over a small choir of shells, while on "Spirit Man," the leader and his cohorts play shells in harmony over an explosive Afro-Latin rhythm section. The undulating, ethereal "Toreador" features an amazingly concise and strong statement from the late Dizzy Gillespie in his final studio recording.

Critic's Choice: Drummer Elvin Jones, another Detroiter who, along with his elder brothers Hank and Thad, is one of the greats to come out of the Motor City, heads up a sextet Tuesday through next Sunday at Catalina Bar & Grill. The highlight of the appearance will be the Los Angeles debut of 19-year-old New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton, who performed on Jones' current "Youngblood" Enja Records CD and who is being touted by his peers as a "monster."

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