February 1st, 2017
Artist: Allan Harris
Label: Love Productions
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 16, 2016
Vocalist Allan Harris combines the soundscapes of Harlem—jazz and R&B with a dash of blues and Braziliam beats—on his latest release Nobody’s Gonna Love You Better. Subtitled Black Bar Jukebox Redux, the album is a follow up to his 2015 release Black Bar Jukebox, and provides the same eclectic mix of covers and original material. Harris again draws upon his longtime collaborator, Pascal Le Boeuf, to cover pianos and Hammond B3, who is joined in the rhythm section by Russell Hall on bass, Shirazette Tinnin on drums and cajón, and Freddie Bryant on guitar.
The album opens with the Harris penned “Mother’s Love (Nobody’s Gonna Love You), a swinging upbeat jazz number that’s timeless in character, both musically and in subject matter. This is followed by a cover of Steely Dan’s “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” which is nicely transformed through the syncopated jazz rhythms and excellent keyboard solos from Le Boeuf, though the somewhat limited vocal range doesn’t allow Harris to shine. On the Johnny Mercer standard “I Remember You,” Harris achieves a much warmer, more sultry timbre, that when combined with Le Boeuf’s subtle keyboard phrasings and bluesy riffs, would be a perfect accompaniment for a candlelight dinner. This segues perfectly into an after dinner dance, courtesy of the Stan Getz & João Gilberto samba, “Doralice,” which Harris sings in Portuguese. Then the classic “Moody’s Mood For Love” takes us into a slow dance, for a perfect close to the evening.
Perhaps the most daring arrangement is the reimagining of Jimi Hendrix’ “Up From the Skies” (the single from Axis: Bold as Love). Though the original song had a definite jazz feel, Harris and the band provide a smooth, swinging accompaniment making it sound like more of a jazz classic, until Le Boeuf breaks out with a funky B3 solo. The highlight of the album might be “Blue Was Angry,” from Harris’s Cross That River song-cycle. This bluesy, countrified song is a complete departure, with a mid-section that turns into a story about an enslaved man escaping his master, and a finale featuring a no holds barred jam with percussion and keyboards.
Think of Nobody’s Gonna Love You Better as the jukebox for your Valentine’s Day, with enough variety to take you from dinner to the dancefloor.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss
Review Genre(s): African American Culture & History