Before I get into my usual rant, I want to give a huge shout out to all of you (and you know who you are) that stepped up and made this past Tuesday the biggest day in Flea Market Funk history. Thank you all, and thank you to my beat combination partner Funky 16 Corners, for the great selections on that last mix. I’m going to try and do a short mix once or twice a week, and for now if you can not download from the links on the right, I’ve put some mixes up on Podomatic , which you can subscribe to and download from there also. That being said, let’s get into some more music shall we? I’m gonna get on over to Chi-town tonight and visit with Eddie Harris.
“Just plug me in just like I was Eddie Harris” was of course a line made famous by the Beastie Boys on “Check Your Head”. I can thank those guys for turning me on to this jazz saxophone player, funk and rock experimenter, and all around music legend. I immediately ran and grabbed Les McCann and Eddie Harris “Swiss Movement” after that. For me it was a brilliant record, and “Compared to What” to this day gets me amped, despite it’s length. Starting off early in life, once again in the church, Harris played the piano, clarinet, and saxophone. He studied the vibraphone under the legendary band director Walter Dyett. His Army duty landed him in an Army jazz band in Germany, where he then went on from there to record for Vee-Jay, Columbia, RCA, and then eventually for Atlantic. He was the first jazz musician to score a Gold Record for his soundtrack work on “Exodus ” in 1961. It’s at Atlantic where he made the greatest impact throughout his career, experimenting with different music styles (and his electric saxophone that contained many different pieces, mouth pieces and attachments). Along the way, it was this very experimentation, his moving from Jazz to Soul to Rock and Blues, that defined his music and constant work ethic. He invented a reed mouthpiece for the trombone, trumpet, and coronet that made all three instruments a lot easier to play. “I’m an experimentalist”, Eddie said in Down Beat magazine. “I like to get into new things to break new ground. My mind is always probing for different things and different sounds. I’ve never been one to let my mind stagnate.. If I didn’t experiment with music, it would mean nothing to me.” Coming right from the mouth of a genius. He was also the first musician to bring public the electro Voice Creation for the Selmer Instrument Company called the Varitone. The man was constantly experimenting and pushing the boundaries of different genres, while always remaining a true jazz musician. Although he was not always taken seriously as a jazz musician, labeled as a gimmick by some, IMHO Harris just “did his thing”, not letting himself be labeled, and pushed his career where he wanted, trying and incorporating a lot of musical styles along the way.
“Get On Up and Dance” is a tune that starts off softly, with some jazz notes, and grows to be a piece of Jazz Funk that beckons you to get into it and get involved; in the dance that is. It’s 1975 people, and this country is on the verge of Disco. Harris does not go there just yet and opts for this Jazz Funk, borderline R & B groover instead. Some bebop horn stabs weave in and out of the baseline, while the chant of “Get On Up and Dance” is infectious. This tune is by no means the best Harris has to offer (and the Lp it came from was given horrible reviews), but for me it illustrates the man’s range (Jazz to Blues to R& B to Funk and Soul), his influences, and definitely his no fear of experimenting with music. I mean, isn’t that what it’s all about? Harris continued to perform up until his death in 1996. There have been many best of reissues of his, but this one sums it up for me: Artist’s Choice: The Eddie Harris Anthology. More to come this week, so Keep Diggin’!