The Harris Group
Gig Seeker Pro

The Harris Group

Oak Park, Illinois, United States | SELF

Oak Park, Illinois, United States | SELF
Band Jazz New Age




"The Harris Group -- "Choices""

Guitarist Ric Harris’s debut CD “Choices” marks the culmination of his professional return to music after a hiatus filled with personal tragedy and triumph. The unifying theme of the record is a profound melodicism that imbues the compositions and their interpretations creating an intense emotional connection with the music.

Harris has a light yet complex sound that exhibits occasional classical influences, for example, on “Paula’s Waltz” and a strong rock sensibility as heard on “Russell Square” a tune in the style of the fusion experiments of the 1970s with the feel of a jam session. He also exhibits a mastery of improvisational skills especially when playing sparse and long notes and making each one count. These solos are sometimes modal in construct like on the Latin tinged “Across the Divide” and, occasionally blues drenched, for instance, on the funky “Around the Block”. The latter features a whimsical interplay between Harris and the vibraphonist Micah Rutschman whose effervescent mallets bring an airy quality to pieces like the hard boppish “Dolphin’s Dance” and the summery and languid “Cape Hatteras”.

Rutschman showcases his harder and deeper tone on the Wayne Shorter masterpiece “Footsteps,” playing the perfect foil to Harris’s hard swinging guitar. The track also features Mike Daly’s earthy pizzicato stand up bass, which he handles with the same facility as he does the electric one. Tom Haugen's edgy, insistent and percussive drumming is the vibrant heartbeat of the music pushing the rhythm forward as the others build their melodies around it.

Guest musician Chris Greene brings his thick and fluid soprano saxophone sound to Duke Ellington’s “Isfahan” as he meanders down the narrow alleys of the town of the title and to the bossa-like “Chances Are” that also features a mellifluous duet with Harris.

With “Choices” The Harris Group, as the quartet is known, exhibits strong camaraderie in creating engaging and stimulating music that, albeit not ground breaking, will no doubt stand the test of time.
- Chicago Jazz Magazine -- March/April 2012


Choices - March 2012



While pursuing a goal, a person may find himself in a location he never considered a possibility. An article in Guitar Player magazine about the Old Town School of Folk Music caused Ric Harris to leave North Carolina, which is a world depicted by the song “Cape Hatteras” on the new CD. A few months later, he caught Ira Sullivan and Joe Diorio at the Jazz Showcase and moved to Los Angeles to complete the program offered by the Guitar Institute of Technology. After returning to Chicago, Ric formed his own group and appeared in the area until 1991, at which time he retired to raise his children. Now that they are pursuing their own dreams, Ric has returned to the music scene with a new vision of jazz that has changed, resulting in a musical voice influenced by Joe Beck, Bill Evans, and Steps Ahead.

The jam sessions around Chicago, such as Chambers and Andy’s Jazz Club, helped Ric to redevelop his playing. He found the jazz standards written after 1960 to be more compelling because they combined tradition with a new approach to melodies. “Dolphin Dance” by Herbie Hancock was one of the first to catch his attention and is a part of the new CD. The jam sessions also led him to consider jazz as something defined by more than improvisation. His compositions merge improvisation with melodies and arrangements often associated with the sound of today. The title track of the CD, "Choices," is the best example for the solos are a part of the overall song, not the focus of it.

The creation of his band, The Harris Group, has resulted in appearances at places not often considered part of the traditional jazz world. Thursday night performances at Goose Island Unplugged usually concentrate on pop acoustic music, but The Harris Group released its CD at that location in March 2012. Swizzlesteve, who handles the booking at Goose Island, states The Harris Group brought "out their great fans but their music was also able to keep everyone else in the bar hanging out until last call." The song “Around the Block” presents the picture of such a night. In many ways, that is the ultimate goal of The Harris Group, bringing jazz to people who enjoy the music with both their head and their heart.