Sunday, October 20, 2019

Listen, Hear: Eddie Harris 85

We'll continue the weekend wizardry with another towering figure of both music and the invention of the tools to make it.
Back in the prehistoric days, saxophones had to be amplified with stodgy, dull microphones, you know.
That was in the antediluvian epoch before our hero showed up.
He is unique in the pantheon of the music, in that he didn't start as a side dude in anyone's band and then break out on his own.
He just kind of arrived, straight out of the military, and took over the world, beginning with a huge hit he had with a cover of the theme to a then-popular film. 
As the 1960s wore on, he began to tinker with the idea of an electric mouthpiece attachment for reed instruments.
The Selmer company eventually produced the first one, called the Varitone, and he integrated it into his sound as if it had existed forever.
Other inventions followed. A trumpet with a reed mouthpiece. A saxophone with a trombone mouthpiece.
Whilst all this was going on, he also managed to become one of the first to achieve a molecular integration of Jazz and Funk, a style that only became more prevalent as the Sixties turned to the Seventies.
One of the forefathers of the Fusion sound that took over the decade, you'd be hard pressed to find a player that had more effect on it all than Eddie Harris, born this day in 1934.
He's been gone since 1996 -- he passed just as the MIDI wind controllers for which he helped pave the way came into prominence -- but he left such a mark that as long as there's reed or brass instruments that need amplification, the currency in which he dealt will always remain this side of relevant.
There's almost no unissued concerts that feature him, but there are a few LPs from decades ago that have never seen reissue in the digital age, including this France-only pressing of a soundtrack he did in 1968 for a French documentary on American history.
Eddie Harris
Pourquoi L’Amérique
OST, 1968

01 Theme from "Why America" (Pourquoi L’Amérique)
02 The Land (La Terre)
03 The Smell of Gunpowder (Odeur de la Poudre)
04 Music for Valentine’s Day (Musique pour un Massacre)
05 Death of a Public Enemy (Mort d'un Ennemi Public)
06 Pourquoi L'Amérique (deuxième version)
07 New Deal
08 Prelude to Pearl Harbor
09 Consumer Civilisation (Civilisation de Consommation)
10 Violent Strikes (Grèves Sauvages)
11 And Then It’s War (Parfois la Guerre)
12 The Okies (Raisins de la Colère)
13 Pourquoi L'Amérique (troisième version) 

Total time: 39:37

Eddie Harris - tenor saxophone & Varitone saxophone
Jimmy Owens - trumpet & flugelhorn 
Jodie Christian - piano
Melvin Jackson -bass
Billy Hart - drums

vinyl transfer of a long out-of-print, French-only pressing of the OST from 1968, on the AZ label
I'll get right back to work on the next few posts, coming your way in the coming days.
Don't miss out on the electrifying Eddie Harris, though. He's 85 today, and he certainly made things a lot more real, compared to what was around here before he made the scene.--J.
10.20.1934 - 11.5.1996