Remembering Friends: Eddie Harris

Now if you ever met Eddie you know he was a true character… her was my introduction to him…

I was just setting in my Sax Shop in Studio city when Eddie walked in… the first thing he said to me was “I’m having trouble playing my high notes and I need your help”… Well, even though we had never met I knew who he was from Album covers (and yes I said Album covers)… the first thing I thought was I am not getting to a conversation with Eddie Harris about playing high notes… Well, he turned his back to me and started putting his sax together so I could not see what he was doing… he started to play… it sounded like a beginner… I had no idea as to what I was going to do… he turned around and his neck was at a right angle and smashed in the middle… he said “I don’t know what the problem is” and started to laugh… he had never met me and was already pulling my chain… apparently he had closed his car door on the neck and bent it in half that morning…. Of course the neck could not be fixed in addition to being bent it had a hoe in the middle of the bend…. He was playing a Mark VII tenor and I had a Mark VII neck in the shop I gave him… he was paying the stock Selmer mouthpiece just like Joe Henderson and of course sounded great with the new neck and believe me he had not trouble with the high notes…

After I got to know him he invited me to his house… we went into his practice-family room and there was a poster on the wall that said “Charlie Parker featuring Eddie Harris on Piano”… as it turned out Eddie started of singing and playing piano in church before he took up the saxophone….. he had a strange cone shaped room he practiced in… he said it helped him project his sound…

A funny story about Eddie… he always said it was important to learn every tune in every key..

I thought that was a very good idea at the time… after his death Lanny Morgan came into the shop and I told him what Eddie had said and he told me a story…
Apparently when Eddie was young he had gone to set in with Sonny Stitt… Eddie had practiced Cherokee in the key of B-Flat so he said Cherokee… Stitt said “Cherokee in G”.. well Eddie did not do so well… So, he went home and learned it in G and then went back… Again, he said Cherokee and Stitt said “Cherokee in F-Sharp” not so good for Eddie… and that was why he learned every song in every key…. I don’t think Stitt had any problems with keys… and neither did Eddie after that…

One of the things I noticed about great Jazz players is that keys did not seem to be important… I know there are keys players like to play a tune in better but most great player can play in all keys…

Needless to say Eddie kept me laughing!

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