Bill Harris – The Blues Soul Of Bill Harris – 2CD – Complete Mercury Recordings 1956-1959


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When Bill Harris recorded his first album as a leader in 1956, he had already been the electric guitar accompanist for The Clovers—one of the most outstanding R&B vocal groups—since 1949. Fellow guitarist Mickey Baker recommended him to Mercury/EmArcy’s A&R head, Bob Shad, and it is to Shad’s credit that he gave Harris so much scope on his debut. The full colored natural sound of Harris’s unamplified Spanish guitar is a rare and interesting pleasure. In the words of Nat Hentoff, “the blues-soul of Harris courses richly through everything he plays.”

On his second album for the label, “The Harris Touch,” Bill was backed by a conventional rhythm section and a bongo player. The session featured the excellent piano work of Hank Jones, with three of the tunes vehicles to showcase of Harris’s electric guitar. On the Mercury/Wing album, Harris again performs solo, displaying his remarkable feeling for the unamplified guitar in both jazz and semi-classical contexts. The fourth album on this set is also a solo recital, recorded during a Bill Harris concert in Washington in 1962. Harris plays with engaging easiness in a live program which mainly includes material from the other three albums, demonstrating his abilities as an improviser of lovely, rhythmically resilient variations.

Down Beat magazine defined his style as a combination of beauty, lyricism, charm and solid strength. This collection of performances is both a masterpiece of guitar versatility and a master class in improvisation.

Track Listing:

Bill Harris: 1. Stompin’ at the Savoy - 2:17   2. Moonglow - 2:32   3. Cherokee - 1:29   4. Out of Nowhere - 2:58   5. Ethyl - 2:42   6. Possessed - 2:43   7. Perdido - 2:37   8. I Can’t Get Started - 1:47   9. Dreaming - 2:33   10. K. C. Shuffle - 2:15   11. Ivanhoe - 2:07   12. Lover - 2:20   13. Spring - 1:40   The Harris Touch: 14. Baker’s Dozen - 1:44   15. Golden Sunset - 2:36   16. Honeysuckle Rose - 2:55   17. Midnight Blue - 3:02   18. Yesterdays - 1:53   19. The Harris Touch - 3:27   20. All the Things You Are - 2:54   21. ‘S Wonderful - 2:17   22. Sometimes I’m Happy - 2:35 

Great Guitar Sounds: 1. Lullaby of Birdland - 2:37   2. Blue Angel - 2:01   3. The Song Is You - 2:40   4. Daahoud - 1:58   5. Ethyl - 2:03   6. Wind Song - 2:01   7. Ol’ Man River - 2:33   8. Once in a While - 2:49   9. Poinciana (Song of the Tree) - 2:03   10. Concerto for Jazz Guitar (Your Majesty) - 3:11   11. Jordu - 1:43   Caught In The Act: 12. Lover - 6:45   13. All the Things You Are - 1:42   14. Poinciana (Song of the Tree) - 2:27   15. Well You Needn’t - 3:21   16. “Intaglio Monk,” Parts 1 & 2 - 6:02   17. Stompin’ at the Savoy - 2:18   18. Possessed - 1:18   19. Cherokee - 4:36   20. The Song Is You - 3:31   21. Where Is Big Joe Williams Blues - 3:17   22. Ethyl - 3:25


CD 1 - Tracks #1-12, from the album “Bill Harris” (Mercury/EmArcy MG 36097)

CD 1 - Tracks #13-24, from the album “The Harris Touch” (Mercury/EmArcy MG 36113)

CD 2 - Tracks #1-11, from the album “Great Guitar Sounds” (Mercury/Wing MGW 12220)

CD 2 - Tracks #12-22, from the album “Caught in the Act” (Jazz Guitar JGLP 100)


BILL HARRIS: Bill Harris, guitar solos
Recorded in New York City, 1956

THE HARRIS TOUCH: Bill Harris, classical and electric guitar; Hank Jones, piano and celeste; unidentified bassist, drummer, and bongo player
Recorded in New York City, May 2 (#15,16,18,21,23,24) & 21 (#13,14,17,19,20), 1957

GREAT GUITAR SOUNDS: Bill Harris, guitar solos
Recorded in New York City, 1959

CAUGHT IN THE ACT: Bill Harris, guitar solos
Recorded at Cafritz Auditorium, Washington D.C., December, 1962

Original recordings produced by Bob Shad

Live recordings produced by Bill Harris

This CD release produced by Jordi Pujol

Hi Fidelity · 24-Bit Digitally Remastered


Biographical notes:

"A guitarist who spent at least two decades on the road with rhythm & blues vocal group the Clovers, Bill "Willie" Harris had a thick background in bebop and swing guitar as well as gospel. The latter style was at his fingertips even before he discovered guitarists such as Oscar Moore on records and radio, since Harris' father was a preacher who was in the position to turn the church organist job over to his offspring. Meanwhile, Harris' mother was drumming in basic harmony and an uncle had chipped in with a guitar, apparently to be the beauty move. The Army supplied a bugle that temporarily halted progress with strings attached, so to speak. Harris was discharged in the mid-'40s and promptly began studying guitar in Washington, D.C., becoming fairly good with both jazz and classical pieces. Harris was encouraged particularly in the classics by high-up staff at the Columbia School of Music, yet seems to have picked the Clovers due to a perceived scent of economic security. The choice, interestingly enough, still wound up leading to expanded musical horizons when fellow rhythm & blues and session guitarist Mickey Baker eavesdropped on a Harris dressing-room practice session and began pulling strings for what would be a series of releases under Harris' own name, such as the 1960 Great Guitar Sounds. The previous EmArcy Solo Guitar from 1956 is considered to be the first album of solo jazz guitar ever released. During the '70s, Harris operated Pigfoot, a Washington, D.C., restaurant, nightclub, and art gallery."

Eugene Chadbourne -All Music Guide