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Biography

  • Born

    1 September 1933

  • Born In

    Michigan, United States

  • Died

    16 January 2000 (aged 66)

Gene Harris (September 1, 1933, Benton Harbor, Michigan – January 16, 2000) was an American jazz pianist known for his warm sound and blues and gospel infused style. From 1956 to 1970, he played in The Three Sounds trio with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy. He was mostly retired to Boise, Idaho when Ray Brown convinced him to go back on tour in the early 1980s. He played with the Ray Brown Trio and then led his own groups, recording mostly on Concord Records, until his death from kidney failure in 2000. Gene's Ode to Billy Joe is known as a jazz classic.

(2) One of the most accessible of all jazz pianists, Gene Harris' soulful style (influenced by Oscar Peterson and containing the blues-iness of a Junior Mance) was immediately likable and predictably excellent. After playing in an Army band (1951-1954), he formed a trio with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy which was, by 1956, known as the Three Sounds. The group was quite popular, and recorded regularly during 1956-1970 for Blue Note and Verve. Although the personnel changed and the music became more R&B-oriented in the early '70s, Harris retained the Three Sounds name for his later Blue Note sets. He retired to Boise, ID, in 1977, and was largely forgotten when Ray Brown persuaded him to return to the spotlight in the early '80s. Harris worked for a time with the Ray Brown Trio and led his own quartets in the years to follow, recording regularly for Concord and heading the Phillip Morris Superband on a few tours; 1998's Tribute to Count Basie even earned a Grammy nomination. While awaiting a kidney transplant, he died on January 16, 2000, at the age of 66. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi

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