Groovin’ Hard: Live at the Penthouse 1964-1968 (Resonance)
Resonance Records specializes in discovering and releasing previously unavailable, often historically significant jazz recordings. Groovin’ Hard: Live at the Penthouse 1964-1968 is no exception. It is culled from several appearances by The Three Sounds on longtime radio personality Jim Wilke’s regular half-hour broadcast “Jazz After Hours,” which featured a wide array of artists performing at Seattle’s popular Penthouse jazz club.
Groovin’ Hard spotlights pianist Gene Harris leading three iterations of the band (during four separate engagements) with his characteristic blend of suave elegance and earthy passion. The hard swinging “Blue Genes,” for instance, is a typical simmering Harris tune. Drummer Bill Dowdy drives it with his restless beats over Andy Simpkins’ deep thumping work on bass. Harris’ blues-drenched refrains roll with easy spontaneity without meandering far from the main theme.
Dowdy also propels the rousing, gospel-inspired “Rat Down Front” while Harris evokes Harlem stride players with his virtuoso pianism. The ardent and thrilling conclusion showcases the seamless camaraderie among the three musicians. The lilting ballad “Yours Is My Heart Alone” features Harris’ most complex improvisation on the album. He builds it with fluency and finesse out of resonant chords and chiming notes. Simpkins solos with lyrical grace while drummer Carl Perkins provides a smooth groove that animates the undulating melody.
For a short while the versatile Kalil Madi worked as the trio’s drummer. His loosely rocking cadence during the group’s 1966 stand at The Penthouse marks a trio of songs on this collection. On the urbane “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” Madi’s agile playing and Simpkins’ percussive bass complement Harris’ crisp, arpeggio-filled lines; together they put a charmingly soulful spin on their rendition of this standard.
Unfortunately, Groovin’ Hard doesn’t add much to The Three Sounds legacy. That is, the music here isn’t notably different than the wealth of Three Sounds material previously released and still readily available. Nonetheless, fans of the group will warmly welcome this understated gem.
Buy Groonin’ Hard: Live At The Penthouse