Black Bar Juke Box by Allan Harris

Allan HarrisThe myriad fans who’ve fallen under the spell of Gregory Porter need to give Allan Harris a listen. Though Harris has a dozen previous albums to his credit, including fine tributes to Nat King Cole and Billy Strayhorn, he seems long overdue for Porter-sized accolades.

For Black Bar Jukebox, a sly collection of covers and originals, Harris borrows Porter producer Brian Bacchus, who draws forth many of the qualities that have propelled Porter to superstardom: the same laidback assurance and that enticing blend of Sammy Davis Jr. dynamism, Cole sophistication and George Benson jazz smarts.

Eight of the 13 tracks are covers, extending from the plushness of “My Funny Valentine” and show-tune fizz of “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” to a masterfully soulful rendition of Bernie Taupin and Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot” and a moving midtempo treatment of John Mayer’s “Daughters” (the sole track featuring Harris’ distinguished guitar work). There’s also a double nod to Kenny Rankin, with a bossa-driven “Catfish” and the lovely, lilting “Haven’t We Met?,” plus a rendering of Eddie Jefferson’s “I Got the Blues” (based on “Lester Leaps In”).

The four Harris originals are equally wide-ranging, beginning with the silken “Miami” (strongly reminiscent of “Where Flamingos Fly”) and misty “Can It Be This Is a Dream,” and progressing to the swinging optimism of “Love’s the Key” and the edge-of-breakup anthem “A Little Bit Scared.”

By: Christopher Loudon for “Jazz Times”



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