Label : Blue Note
The centerpiece of this beautiful — and underappreciated at the time — album is Higgins' nine-plus-minute "Sittin' Duck," with Harris at his hooky gospelized best, playing the hell out of the changes and filling the measures with his requisite taste and feel. The two drummers shuffle in unison, and Estes' vibes articulate the melody with Harris adding a warmer dimension. The strings are rich, but are employed mostly in the codas and tags, adding to the dramatic weight of the tune, which is otherwise a long, dance-worthy strut. Elsewhere, the strings are varied in their texture on the gorgeous "Sugar Hill"; they outdo those in the hits of the day like Paul Mauriat's "Love Is Blue," or even Roger Williams' "Born Free." Ervin's "African Sweets" is one of the set's highlights, too.
It lifts six notes from the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" on top of a happening bass vamp and some slamming snare to introduce the cut. This is down-and-dirty soul-jazz dressed for Saturday night at the club; Harris beats the hell out of the piano's middle register in pure groove ecstasy. The added flamenco-style guitar and rough-and-rowdy flute solo add to an already heady brew. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg in a sense. Elegant Soul was — and could even be currently — dismissed with a casual listen as lightweight pop with a compelling rhythmic sense. But that would be selling it way short. This album warrants close listening to discern all that's happening in its production and arrangements. Whether it's on the dancefloor, for sampling, for feel-good or deep listening, or for finger-popping, it satisfies on all levels. [Previously only available as an import, Elegant Soul was reissued in 2008 as part of Blue Note Records' venerable Rare Groove series.
Gene Harris & His The Three Sounds - Book Of Slim
By Electric Looser