Eddie Harris – For Bird And Bags

Eddie Harris Eddie Harris
For Bird And Bags
(Koch Jazz – 2000)
by Mark Ruffin

Eddie Harris’ influence has a sax player and composer is steadily growing. There have been a number of fine tributes to him since his death four years ago, most notably by Ronnie Laws, Ed Cherry and John Scofield. Now comes this fine re-issue from the great sax player’s post-“Exodus,” pre “Listen Here,” days on Vee-Jay in the mid-60 that has Harris given praise to two of his influences.

The man was such a force with his own voice on tenor sax, that his own influences have always been buried in his playing. But, right from the jump on this joint, he lets you know right away how Bird struck him. The opening track, Salute To Bird,” starts off with Bird’s classic riff from “Parker’s Mood,” and quickly ascends to a Harris original that filled with quotes from famous lines by Parker. It’s a clever tribute written in the inimitable Eddie Harris style. “I’m As Happy As I Want To Be,” while in spirit may be a tribute to Milt Jackson, the tandem of Charles Stepney on vibes, and an un-credited pianist (probably John Young or Jodie Christian) come off more like George Shearing and his group, circa, mid 60’s.

On “Salute To Bags,” it’s obviously Harris at the piano and even if the song wasn’t based on the chord changes to “Bags’ Groove,” Stepney, who went on to write and produce Earth, Wind & Fire, still implies more of a vibe (pardon the pun) in his solo that’s more Milt Jackson, and Roland Faulkner adds a fine guitar solo.

The group Harris has here is highly charged throughout this session and shines brightly on the two tribute tracks and “Samba De Orfeu.” This is not only a worthy find for Eddie Harris’ diehards but a fine addition to any jazz collection.