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Yesterday in Jazz: – Oct 20, 1934 – Eddie Harris was born!

Eddie HarrisSo the more I investigate the world of jazz music, I have come to the realization that what I know is like the tip of the iceberg, and there’s a whole lotta of iceberg below that tip!!  Like yesterday, it was Eddie Harris’ birthday, now I can’t fault myself for not knowing that it was his birthday, that may only be known to his most ardent fans. But I really should know more than his name and he is a jazz artist. When I read that he had a hit with his cover of the theme from Exodus, that sounded kind of familiar! But not really enough to say know Eddie Harris…..

So I need to know about Eddie Harris who was born on October 20, 1934 in Chicago. with a father who originally came from Cuba, and a mother who hailed from the Crescent City New Orléans.  I need to know that like other successful Chicago musicians, Harris studied music under Walter Dyett at DuSable High School where the likes of Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Clifford Jordan, Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons, Julian Priester, and Bo Diddley and others studied, And that Harris who was first signed as a pianist is best known for not only playing tenor saxophone but also for introducing the electrically amplified saxophone and his best-known compositions are “Freedom Jazz Dance”, recorded and popularized by Miles Davis in 1966, and “Listen Here.”[1]

Eddie’s biography at iTunes told me that Harris has been……

Long underrated in the pantheon of jazz greats, Eddie Harris was an eclectic and imaginative saxophonist whose career was marked by a hearty appetite for experimentation. For quite some time, he was far more popular with audiences than with critics, many of whom denigrated him for his more commercially successful ventures. Harris’ tastes ranged across the spectrum of black music, not all of which was deemed acceptable by jazz purists. He had the chops to handle technically demanding bop, and the restraint to play in the cool-toned West Coast style, but he also delved into crossover-friendly jazz-pop, rock- and funk-influenced fusion, outside improvisations, bizarre electronic effects, new crossbreedings of traditional instruments, blues crooning, and even comedy. Much of this fell outside the bounds of what critics considered legitimate, serious jazz, and so they dismissed him out of hand as too mainstream or too gimmicky. To be fair, Harris’ large catalog is certainly uneven; not everything he tried worked. Yet with the passage of time, the excellence of his best work has become abundantly clear. Harris’ accomplishments are many: he was the first jazz artist to release a gold-selling record, thanks to 1961’s hit adaptation of the “Exodus” movie theme; he was universally acknowledged as the best player of the electric Varitone sax, as heard on his hit 1967 album The Electrifying Eddie Harris; he was an underrated composer whose “Freedom Jazz Dance” was turned into a standard by Miles Davis; he even invented his own instruments by switching brass and reed mouthpieces. Plus, his 1969 set with Les McCann at the Montreux Jazz Festival was released as Swiss Movement, and became one of the biggest-selling jazz albums of all time.

Exodus to JazzAnd when I went to find out more about Harris’ cover of the “Theme from Exodus” I read….

One of the biggest hit jazz LPs of the post-rock & roll era, Eddie Harris‘ Exodus to Jazz seemed to come completely out of left field. It was the debut album by a previously unknown artist from an under-publicized scene in Chicago, and it was released on the primarily R&B-oriented Vee Jay label, which had originally signed Harris as a pianist, not a tenor saxophonist. The impetus for its breakthrough was equally unlikely; Harris adapted Ernest Gold‘s stately, somber theme from the Biblical film Exodus — which had been covered for an easy listening hit by Ferrante & Teicher — and made it into a laid-back jazz tune. Edited down to 45-rpm length, it became a smash, reaching the pop Top 40 and pushing the album to the upper reaches of the charts — a nearly unprecedented feat for instrumental jazz in 1961. Its stunning popularity sent jazz critics into a tizzy — after all, if it was that accessible to a mass audience, there just had to be something wrong with it, didn’t there?…..Read More

Finally, I came to the end and found that Harris made his final studio recordings in the mid-’90s. He was forced to stop performing by the combined effects of bone cancer and kidney disease. He passed away in Los Angeles on November 5, 1996, about six months after a final concert engagement in his hometown of Chicago.

Read More:
Website: Eddie Harris House of Jazz
iTunes: Eddie Harris – biography
Wikipedia: Eddie Harris
AllMusic: Eddie Harris

Here’s Eddie Harris and Les McCann performing their hit “Compared to What”  from Swiss Movement Now this one I know!! Happy Birthday Eddie, sorry I took so long to find you but I think from here on our your music will BE in my music library!! I started looking for my favorites last night when I listened to the 2013 release from Wnts – My Buddy  and tonight I listened to Exodus to Jazz. Good Stuff!