In the vast world of jazz music, there are not many who can match the enduring influence of the late Fats Navarro. Over the course of a short lived career, met suddenly by a tragic end, Navarro laid the first stones that ultimately provided a foundation for the growth of Bebop. Last week at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center, one of Navarro’s successors performed in tribute to the legacy that had inspired him to first pick up a trumpet.
The Bruce Harris Quintet took to the stage at exactly 7:30, introducing themselves to a full and quiet house. A regular performer at the club, trumpeter Bruce Harris played into the evening alongside Jerry Weldon, Ehud Asherie, Clovis Nicolas, and Jason Brown. After Harris would gently carry the band into each number, he would remove himself from the stage to allow Weldon a moment to wail on the saxophone and capture the erratic lyricism that defines the genre.
What was so deeply special about this evening, was how Harris told his own story through the stylings of his biggest inspirations. As the sun began to cascade over the trees of Central Park, Harris briefly turned the focus of the night onto Clifford Brown, the link that bound him directly to Fats Navarro, with a rendition of “Brownie Eyes.” He noted that the piece was written by Brown with Navarro being his main influence. The sky turned to a soft yellow, the band began to play, and the music enchanted the guests like a sweeping love letter. On the upright bass, Nicolas kept perfect tempo, while Weldon cradled the intimacy of the number and provided warmth with percussion.
Aside from sharing the stage so harmoniously with one another, the band welcomed Carlos Abadie to join them for a rendition of “Boperation” by Navarro and fellow trumpeter, Howard McGhee. Harris and Abadie played together so naturally and never missed a beat while shifting around to share the spotlight. And as he did every time, Weldon would dance the whole way through his brilliant tenor solos, throwing his entire body into the song itself.
As the night came to a close, the Quartet was thanked with rounds of applause and dinner guests were met with settled checkbooks. For an evening out on a weekday, the calming hum of Harris’ trumpet served as a welcome distraction from the normal fuss of the work week.