The Carmel Supper Club returns with two nights of barbecue and music courtesy of the acclaimed Allan Harris Band.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
There aren’t many musicians who can claim Tony Bennett as a mentor. Allan Harris is one of them.
“Bennett changed my life and focus as an artist,” Harris says. “If I were a painter it would be as if I sat at the feet of Picasso.”
The Brooklyn native released Convergence in May, a tribute to Bennett and Bill Evans featuring Japanese pianist Takana Miyamoto. To prepare for the album, Harris spent many hours with Bennett, who helped him put together a set list and select tempos. Harris also picked up something else from the 17-time Grammy winner.
“[Bennett] showed me that giving the audience your awe was what it takes,” he says. “When I met first met him, he was scheduled for a week at the Blue Note and he sang his heart out every set.”
Harris says he reinforces that lesson with each appearance he makes. “I was blessed to take some knowledge away from that, knowledge that I [pull] from every time I sing a song.”
Harris anchors an intimate show with his band Thursday and Friday Night at Sunset Center’s Studio 105 for the Carmel Supper Club, which begins with barbecue courtesy of Good Time Catering paired with Silvestri wine. He seems to sing his heart out every time he performs, which has helped build a resume that includes three New York Nightlife Awards for “Outstanding Jazz Vocalist” and appearances at some of the most celebrated music festivals in world, from Jazz Aspen to the Jazz Fest Wien in Austria to the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy.
On his original “Can’t Live My Life Without You,” Harris’ voice glides effortlessly along with a heartbeat timing similar to Billie Holiday’s. With tunes like “Days of Wine and Roses” paying homage to Bennett, Harris delivers husky vocals that combine the tradition of show music with jazz. With each, Harris gets across just what the composer had in mind, a Bennett trademark.
“A song should tell a story and put the listener into the framework of it,” Harris says.
With the Bennett/Evans tribute wrapped, Harris is readying for the debut of his musical Cross That River – about the overlooked contributions made by people of color in the development of America’s western frontier – opening at Theatre Aspen in 2013.
His recent achievements include an Olympic feat: He recently performed several gigs with the Igor Butman Big Band at the Russian House in London during the Olympic games.
“Being here at the Olympics has been nothing short of mind blowing for me,” he says. “I feel like I am a part of the community of the world where violence greed and tyrannical power have no place.”
Despite all his accomplishments, Harris transmits an easy humility.
“I just try to live and grow with each passing day,” he says. “After all, I am an artist and inspiration comes with each sunrise and peaks with every sunset.”
THE ALLAN HARRIS BAND performs 7:30pm (dinner at 6:30pm) Thursday and Friday, Aug. 9 and 10, at Sunset Center’s Studio 105, San Carlos at Ninth, Carmel. $88; $128; $178. 620-2048, www.sunsetcenter.org