Allan Harris: A Tale of Two Kings

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Allan Harris

A Tale of Two Kings

Dizzy’s Club, NYC, July 9, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Allan Harris

Essentially two shows in a generous one, in A Tale of Two Kings the multi-faceted jazz artist Allan Harris saluted “the genius of Eddie Jefferson” and “the elegance of Nat King Cole” at Dizzy’s Club, the room with unquestionably the best view in the city. The singer’s abundant charm, wit, and musicality were on full display, whether offering up hot vocal riffs as a tribute to Jefferson, the father of jazz vocalese, or sliding through standards à la the smooth jazz balladeering of Cole. Harris is as much a joy to watch as he is to listen to as the music seemingly inhabits his body. His fingers shoot out and wiggle in rhythm, seeming to coax his colleagues into joining in the fun; his shoulders rise and fall as emotion cries out; his feet break into dance steps as an experiment; and his mouth slides into a mischievous smile.

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At every turn, harris’ enthusiasm and invention were echoed in the trio that backed him and blended in with him. Music director Shirazette Tinnin, an extraordinary percussionist, seemed to levitate each time she took the lead.

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The very handsome Nimrod Speakes made his bass dance and strut each time he took the solo. And the intense Arcoiris Sandoval on piano provided beautiful ornamentation to the quiet ballad moments, at once elegant and emotional.

Within the first half, the Jefferson part of the show, “So What” (Miles Davis) was a fireworks-like explosion, while “Jeanine” (Eddie Jefferson) slowed things down to a loose, almost improvisational feel. Harris’ own work, “Miami Blues,” was much in the same vein, with its tribute to an exotic woman being sensual without going overboard, as he stroked his guitar and purred that there is “cream in that tea.”

In the second half, Cole’s passion for the Great American Songbook was in evidence as Harris’ body language slowed down and became more formal. His crooning on such sweet songs as “I Remember You” were sentimental to just the right degree.

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Tying in with the style of the earlier numbers, “Fly Me to the Moon” was given a hard-driving arrangement, while “Walking My Baby Back Home” was swung with a nifty bass solo. Combined, all these elements made for a most satisfying evening of music and joy.

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Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."