Thinking of Eddie

July 27, 2007 Off By Eric Jensen

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Eddie Harris, the late tenor saxophonist. Maybe it’s my Chicago roots, I don’t know. ‘Listen Here’ with it’s simple 2-chord vamp captures the minimalist essence of everything that feels right to me about jazz. During his career Mr. Harris was considered jazz-funk and fell somewhere in the shadow of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, etc. Although his recorded output was uneven, his voice was completely original. His tone was rich, and his experiments with electronics were ahead of their time. His simple riff-based style reminds me of something John Mayer said about Stevie Ray Vaughn (I paraphrase); “…he was always playing rhythm guitar…”. I particularly loved Eddie’s trademark technique of anchoring his solos with a simple repeated lick, jumping back and forth between registers. In my writing I have long pursued that mysterious space between simple, direct, groove and the more sophisticated elements of harmony and rhythm. Whenever I try to visit that place, I’m pulled back to Eddie Harris, and wonder if there is anything to explore he hasn’t already said.