The Three Sounds Biography

Led by self-taught pianist Gene Harris (1 September 1933, Benton Harbour, Michigan, USA, d. 16 January 2000, Boise, Idaho, USA), the Three Sounds’ smooth mainstream jazz proved highly popular during a recording career that spanned over 10 years. After Harris left the army he played with several bands on the Midwest circuit, before befriending drummer Bill Dowdy in South Bend, Indiana. The two men formed the Four Sounds with bass player Andy Simpkins (b. Andrew Simpkins, 29 April 1932, Richmond, Indiana, USA, d. 2 June 1999, Los Angeles, California, USA), but after unsuccessfully experimenting with several tenor saxophonists they reverted to the Three Sounds, playing a bluesy style of mainstream jazz. Support slots for soloists including Lester Young, Sonny Stitt, Miles Davis, Kenny Burrell and Nat Adderley established the trio’s reputation. A move to New York led to a contract with Blue Note Records.

Their 1958 debut Introducing The Three Sounds remains one of the label’s most successful releases, and was followed by a further nine albums in five years. The trio made further albums for Verve Records, Mercury Records and Limelight before returning to Blue Note in 1966. Dowdy was replaced by Donald Bailey after the same year’sVibrations, who was in turn replaced by Carl Burnett for 1968’s string-laden Elegant Soul. Henry Franklin was brought in to replace the departing Simpkins for 1969’s Soul Symphony, the last official album by the trio (although numerous sessions have subsequently been released). Monk Montgomery replaced Franklin for live dates, but with 1971’s Gene Harris & The Three Sounds Harris began a solo career that saw the pianist moving towards a jazz rock sound and then, during the last two decades of his life, a blues-inflected jazz groove.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.