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Eddie Harris, the Chicago-born multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, and arranger is a genuine original whose accomplishments as an innovative and creative Jazz musician were far greater than the level of recognition and respect he was accorded.
It has been said that the first mistake Harris made was to achieve a massive hit with his debut recording; the second was developing a passion for experimentation; and the third was his flirtation with rock and funk music. But that?s why we like him! His debut recording with the Vee Jay label on January 17, 1961. The album, Exodus to Jazz, included the Ernest Gold theme from the marathon Otto Preminger biblical movie Exodus, which, issued as a single, enjoyed three weeks in the Billboard Top Forty in May 1961, reached the number thirty-six spot, and eventually sold more than two million copies. Another single from the same album, "Listen Here," was a Jazz chart fixture for eighty-four weeks. Harris went on to make six more albums for the Vee Jay label over the next three years, playing straight-ahead, boppish tenor saxophone interpretations of standards and also making his mark as a gifted composer of original themes. After making three albums for Columbia between 1964 and 1965, Harris signed with Atlantic, for which label he recorded a couple dozen albums between 1965 and 1977. Harris's first Atlantic album, The In Sound, recorded in August 1965, featured his original theme, "Freedom Jazz Dance," a composition that caught the ear of Miles Davis. Miles recorded the number on his October 1966 Columbia album Miles Smiles and helped it achieve the status of a Jazz standard.
Harris's first instrumental innovation in 1966 was the introduction of the Varitone, a signal processor attachment to his tenor saxophone. He featured the electronic tenor on his Atlantic album Mean Greens, recorded with Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, and Billy Higgins. Later he began singing through the synthesized saxophone while his guitarist, Ronald Muldrow, inaugurated the "guitorgan," a touch-sensitive electronic guitar which simulated the sound of a Hammond organ. On the Atlantic album Silver Cycles, recorded in September 1968, Eddie Harris played tenor saxophone with a Maestro amplifier and used an Echoplex unit, incorporating multiple tape loops to play back the recorded sound at constant intervals. It was probably the first recorded instance of such a device.
"The Real Electrifying Eddie Harris" is an album from 1982 which features a super funky version of the Harris favorite "Listen Here". Packed with modal beauty and a touch of the naughty funk business that got Mr Harris into tricky waters, this album was formerly only released on the obscure Mutt and Jeff label.