WBGO Radar

Allan Harris: "Black Bar Jukebox"

singer allan harris

I first heard Allan Harris at a joint in the Village.  Called (because it was on) Greene Street.    

Must've been 25 years ago. Joint looked like someone's parlor a hundred years ago.  

Comfy sofas.  Carpet.  

I've (maybe) embellished my memory of the joint.

Much more vividly memorable was the singer. Allan Harris.  

Looked like a crooner from the time when Rodgers and Hart songs were the pop songs.  Nat-like.  Mr B-like.  Hartman-ic.  A creamy baritone.  Tall.  Handsome.  Knew how to caress a microphone.  Knew how to caress a lyric.

"You know how to sing a #%*#-ing melody," he remembers me saying. And he still does know how.
He's been singing pretty much everything in the years since that first time I heard him.

If there were any record stores anymore, where do they box him?  Jazz?  Pop?  Blues?  

Yes.  All of the above.  And more.

He's created an entire show about black cowboys, recently sang and played guitar in a show that celebrated the legendary nightclub Café Society.  And he's recorded tributes to Tony Bennett, Nat Cole, and Billy Strayhorn.
Now comes Allan's newest (and best) album, called Black Bar Jukebox.  Inspired by songs Allan heard growing up, heard on a Harlem jukebox.  And plenty of other box-worthy songs he's heard where he's lived.

A song of Rodgers and Hart he might've sung at Greene Street: "My Funny Valentine."

A song from Broadway: "I Got a Lot of Livin' To Do."  

A song Sinatra used to sing:  "You Make Me Feel So Young."

A Brit-pop hit of Elton John: "Take Me to the Pilot."

A classic of the clarinetist Mr Acker Bilk, a #1 Brit-hit of 1961,  played on Apollo 10 going to the moon in 1969: "Stranger on the Shore."

A classic of Lester Young re-created as a vocalese of Eddie Jefferson: "Lester Leaps In" into "I Got The Blues."

Two songs of Kenny Rankin, especially the ought-to-be-recorded-much-more "Haven't We Met?"

And four of Allan's own songs.

One is a tender song of love in "Miami."

Another echoes the King Cole Trio: "A Little Bit Scared."
Black Bar Jukebox could've been called All of the Above.

Or maybe Know How.

- Michael Bourne, host of WBGO's SIngers Unlimited

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