157. Gene Harris Quartet with Frank Wess / It's the Real Soul (1995)
Recorded live across two nights in March of 1995, these eight tracks feature the Gene Harris Quartet (Ron Eschete, g; Luther Hughes, b; Paul Humphrey, d) in the company of Frank Wess. Wess divides his time between four tracks, playing tenor on "Menage a Bleu" and "Estoril Soul," then flute on "Straight No Chaser" and "My Funny Valentine." He is as expressive on the flute as Harris is on the piano, unleashing a diverse assortment of perky phrases and exciting techniques that frame the Monk tune in a perfectly jaunty way, and adding lots of personality to "My Funny Valentine." Nice as it is to have him around for the proceedings, the core band plays with such a big sound and heavy swing that I don't miss him on the other half of the record. Harris works well with guitarist Eschete. Their cooperation in splitting the breaks of "Lady Be Good" turns the old tune into a memorable affair, their choruses developing patiently until the mood reaches a fever pitch. "That's All," which is the last tune on the album, is a fitting closer. Harris teases "Rhapsody in Blue" before really pounding into fully chorded statements, with the crowd loving it. His style on the keyboard is often described as being rooted in a gospel tradition and tracks like "You Don't Know Me" clearly substantiate those descriptions.