The Electrifying Eddie Harris

The Electrifying Eddie Harris

In the transformative year of 1967, when both jazz and rock were the midst of massive mutation, Eddie Harris undertook his own personal revolution as one of the only musicians to adopt the electric saxophone. Developed in 1965 by H & A Selmer Inc., the “Varitone” featured an electronic pickup system that applied a number of different effects to the sound of the standard sax. It ignited Harris’ imagination, and The Electrifying Eddie Harris is a consummation of love for his new toy. The Varitone didn’t alter the saxophonist’s naturally husky tone, but instead offered it a ballsy edge and freaky effects like tremolo and echo. Harris was especially fond of the octave function, which doubled every note with a ghostly, rumbling undertone. This effect is especially noticeable on “Theme In Search Of A Movie,” “Listen Here” and “I Don’t Want No One But You.” The moody rumble of “Spanish Bull” is proof of the kinds of scenes that could be evoked with the new technology, but the centerpiece is surely “Sham Time.” Aided by auxiliary horn players and percussionists, the song surges forth like a tractor-trailer just barely attached to its axles.

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