Live At Newport

Eddie Harris

Atlantic Records, 1970

http://www.eddieharris.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/27/2000

I'd like to break from the traditional review we run here for a minute or two, and share a brief story with you. (Hey, indulge me... it's my friggin' birthday, for Crissakes.)

When I was about three years old, I was given a 45 - from my parents or from my aunt, I can't remember. Supposedly, when "Children's Song" was put on my little record player, I would happily bounce around to the strange yet wonderful noises coming from the record. Much to my surprise, when I was preparing to move from my parents' home to my first rat-hole apartment, I found that record, and it still played.

I probably spent the next five years searching for the album it came from - Live At Newport by Eddie Harris. My daughter happened to be bouncing off the walls one day when we still lived in our last apartment, so I started to play some 45s for her, to no avail. Then, I put "Children's Song" on for her - and she stopped dead in her tracks, sat there, and listened to the entire song. It was a wonderful moment.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

About ten months ago, I finally located a copy of Live At Newport, and won the eBay auction for it. Much to my surprise, I found out the version of "Children's Song" I had grown up listening to was an edited version. It took me a long time to get used to the original version that Harris played at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1970, but nowadays, even the original version can make me cry. (I still have the original 45, and I treat it with kid gloves. I don't know how it's survived this long without me breaking it on accident, and I'm not about to get careless now.)

Side note: I found out the day I wrote this review that Live At Newport is now available again, paired up with Harris's 1971 release Instant Death. Where was this information five years ago, huh?!?

I tell this story because this is one of the earliest memories I have when music was an important part of my life - and I'm in a reminiscing mood today, so why not? Plus, it gives me a great lead-in to the review of Live At Newport, which, I'm sorry to say, isn't the easiest album to get hooked into.

Harris might have been dwarfed in popularity by Miles Davis around this time, but both men were essentially doing the same thing in jazz, albeit on different roads. Both were working elements of funk into their music, though Harris seemed to want to preserve a more natural sound to his style, as evidenced on "Carry On Brother". There was also an element of gospel-like protest, heard on "Silent Majority" (featuring guest vocals by Eugene McDaniels, the song's writer) which challenged the audience to not accept the status quo.

But on some of the spacier moments, as heard on "Walk Soft" and "Don't You Know The Future's In Space," Harris and his bandmates seem to be aimlessly drifting. Yes, I know that such music is actually very carefully crafted, and I don't want to belittle that skill (which I know I could never do). But often, it doesn't sound like a natural flow as much free-form jazz has.

I still have some very fond memories of "Children's Song" which will never be dulled, and I have no regrets about adding Live At Newport to my collection. I guess I also shouldn't be surprised that the album didn't live up to the expectations I had harbored all these years. I guess something you wait that long for never does match up to how you imagine it.

2000 Christopher Thelen and "The Daily Vault". All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission.

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.