By Holli Harms
He, Allan Harris, master of smooth jazz, rock-and-roll jazz, and bluesy jazz, strides into Smoke Jazz Club weaving his way through the audience with seductive magnetism exuding from every inch of him surrounded by the hoop and holler of audience anticipation. His extraordinary band has already taken their place on the intimate stage, so when he hits that space they are off and jazzing, and so are we!
His voice is a balance of intimacy and strength, of longing and love, a simmering smokey seduction. He is a breeze of fresh air, a blaze of sunshine, a rumble of all-knowing thunder, a feast of delicious tastes and textures. He sings, plays the guitar, scats, and croons. He is perfection.
As is his band, Arcoiris Sandoval (piano), Marty Kenney (bass), Norman Edwards Jr. (drums), and Stacy Dillard (saxophone). They have been performing together for so long that they play with such incredible depth and sound I have no words for it. An audience member next to me leaned in and whispered, “I come to Smoke Jazz often and this is the best I have ever experienced.” And, Oh, my, yes! They are taking it all to the next level. Edwards finds the music in his drums, in the sticks, in the silence, before each beautiful beat is played out. Sandoval, of tiny stature, is beating the magic out of her Steinway and the keys take flight. Dillard reminds us with the depth of his sound and master of the instrument that the saxophone can be ravishing, captivating, seducing every part of us. Kenney on bass creates sounds I didn’t know a bass had, and I’m not sure if the bass was ever aware. Harris on his electric guitar plays it with love. He and his instrument are one.
There is an unconscious contract the audience and performer agree to. We show up and take in the performance and when we are moved we allow our pleasure to be seen, we do not hold back. We do not hold back and we hope the same for the performers. This is a beautifully constructed evening of the contract met and agreed upon and not only applause from the audience but leaping to our feet to cheer a song, to cheer this man and his stunning band. This is jazz-rock gospel. It is not to be missed. I have not experienced this kind of profoundness before. The spirits of mass and the phantoms of sound are all present.
The evening of songs was a wonderful collection of blues and jazz and ended with a new song that Harris composed for the new play that he will also be starring in, Cross That River, playing in September at 59E59 Theaters. Your chance to see him perform. My chance to see him again.
Smoke Jazz Supper Club 2751 Broadway ( 106th Street) New York, NY 100125