THE THREE SOUNDS; Groovin’ Hard (Resonance Records)

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Led by the redoubtable Gene Harris, the Three Sounds were a hard-gigging piano trio active from the late fifties to the early seventies. Originally a foursome (the Four Sounds!), the line up was Gene Harris on piano, Andrew Simpkins on bass, Bill Dowdy on drums, and saxophonist Lonnie ‘The Sound’ Walker. Disagreements between Harris and Walker about musical policy (Walker was keen on an R&B route) meant the four became three and that threesome found a deal with Riverside before signing with Blue Note for whom they recorded nine successful long players.

The Three Sounds were also serial music tourists and criss-crossed the States playing multi gigs to their large fan base. This new archive recording catches the trio live at one such gig – or more specifically four gigs spanning 1964-1968. However all the music was recorded at one club – Seattle’s Penthouse which, despite its name, was actually a street level, intimate jazz club. Seattle-based jazz radio DJ, Jim Wilkie, would regularly broadcast live from the club and for each broadcast he ensured that the shows were professionally recorded ostensibly for his own archive. Back in 2010 jazz reissue specialists Resonance Records were given access to the tapes and they’ve just made available this 10 track selection from the Three Sounds’ shows. None of the music has been available before and some of the tunes were never recorded by the trio for any of their released albums.

As was the norm for 60s jazz performances the Three Sounds repertoire here consists of band originals and well chosen covers of standards and then contemporary popular songs. Amongst the covers here are treatments of ‘Girl Talk’, ‘The Shadow Of Your Smile’ and ‘Bluesette’. Of the originals perhaps the best known is ‘Blue Genes’, the title tune to a Three Sounds 1962 long player while the most obscure is ‘The Boogaloo’ – not known anywhere else in the group’s catalogue.

Personnel-wise the album features three incarnations of the Three Sounds. Harris and Simpkins are constant. Original drummer Bill Dowdy features on four tracks while Kalil Madi, who replaced Dowdy in 1966 (legend has it that lifelong friends, Harris and Dowdy fell out after a disagreement over money!) is on the drum stool for two cuts; Madi’s replacement, Carl Burnett, drums on the remaining four offerings. So, three trios but one very distinct, easily identifiable sound… essentially the sound of Gene Harris. Harris’ playing has its roots in the church but his technique also owed much to blues and R&B and he knew how to make his music swing. As one critic put it; “He got right to the meat on the bone!” Drop in anywhere here and you’ll understand just what he means!

(BB) 3/5