Does good music need to be intellectually stimulating?
Well, personally I’d say yes, this for me is one of the key differentiators of the music I really like and that I write about on my blog, from what regularly tops the charts these days.
I guess most people like their music a bit simpler (I know this sounds condescending, but isn’t really meant this way), but for me, a certain level of complexity usually is a must for me to truly enjoy music.
That said, every once in a while, it is hugely enjoyable to have an album that is just right, but doesn’t overdo it from a complexity point of view. You can do a Goldberg or Diabelli variations every day.
Gene Harris Quartet: Listen Here (Concord 1989)
Listen here is such an album. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Jazz for simpletons, but it is straightforward mainstream Jazz.
But it does one thing right: it swings like crazy, and if you can listen to this without tapping your foot I’d be hugely surprised. Well, look at the cast: we’re actually talking about the Ray Brown trio of the 1990s here. Ray Brown, the bassist legend that grew up with the Oscar Peterson trio, at the time had surrounded himself with the brilliant pianist, Gene Harris, and the outstanding Jeff Hamilton (this guy can swing). I’ve already mentioned the Ray Brown Album Live At The Loa in my 25 Essential Jazz Albums, and have reviewed Jeff Hamilton’s excellent album Live here . So if you liked these two recommendations, this one is a no brainer.
We’re adding here the guitarist Ron Eschete, who switches between acoustic and electric guitars, and overall blends in so well, you could often think you’re listening to a piano trio album.
You get a nice mixture of standards and original compositions. And to add a cherry to the cake, Concord Jazz was known for their good sound quality of their recordings, so if you can find it, I suggest you get the 2003 SACD release of this album (its unfortunately out of stock, and not yet available as DSD download to my knowledge).
Talking about finding this album, I’m unclear about who owns Concord’s catalogue these days, but some of their albums are still quite hard to find even electronically.
I’ve added some links below, but for example, Qobuz, my personal favorite streaming provider (no affiliation) doesn’t even have the album. If you’re on Apple Music, you’re better off.
In any case, if you like swinging, melodic mainstream jazz that is just there to be enjoyed, it is worth going through the slight trouble of finding this little gem.
My rating: 4 stars (I’m still a bit torn, this could even potentially be 5 stars, maybe I’ll change my mind eventually)