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Horizons Jazz Orchestra pays tribute to Lee Harris

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    Posted: 01 Sep 2020 at 7:57pm

HORIZONS JAZZ ORCHESTRA is a swinging contemporary big band comprising some of the finest musicians in South Florida. They are now releasing their debut CD, HORIZONS JAZZ ORCHESTRA PLAYS THE MUSIC OF LEE HARRIS, THE BRITE SIDE.

LEE HARRIS was a baritone saxophonist, composer, and arranger who worked in New York City and Atlantic City. In 2016, Harris and trumpeter DENNIS NODAY, an alumnus of the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson bands, co-founded and co-led SUPERBAND, a fresh, innovative big band that mainly performed Lee's compositions and arrangements.

Because of their superb musicianship, SUPERBAND built a solid following which was championed by social media promoter, JEANNETTE C. PIŅA, who would become the Executive Producer for THE BRITE SIDE. Ms. Piņa loved the sound of the band with its Stan Kenton influence from the beginning. The band's music is lush and melodic, and very approachable. It does not try to be avant-garde; rather, it has a danceable, crowd-pleasing appeal. By the time the project got underway, Harris was in failing health. Ms. Piņa had admired his work and wanted to make the album his legacy, so she enlisted the help of Noday and veteran trombonist MICHAEL BALOGH, the lead trombonist with SUPERBAND, to realize the project. Balogh, who has a long list of recording, television and theater credits, and who has performed with a 'Who's Who' of renowned musical artists in the Jazz, Pop, Rock, R&B, and Latin worlds, became the conductor and musical director of the band. 
Unfortunately, Harris passed away just months before the project was completed, so he never heard the final product. Balogh and Ms. Piņa wanted to keep the band going, but since some of the original musicians had moved on to other projects, they decided to rebrand and named the band Horizons Jazz Orchestra to make this debut album as a tribute to Lee Harris. Balogh asked three of his old friends to record with the newly rebranded band as guest artists.
CARL SAUNDERS is a trumpet virtuoso who grew up in Las Vegas, playing mellophone and then trumpet with The Stan Kenton Orchestra. He played the lead trumpet and jazz chairs in many showrooms in Las Vegas for all the superstars. Balogh had also lived and played in Las Vegas for several years and was friends with Saunders and invited him to join the project. Saunders is featured on five of the ten tracks with his innovative solos.
JONATHAN JOSEPH is a Grammy-winning drummer known for his work with Spyro Gyra, Al Jarreau, Yellowjackets, and Dave Sanborn, and has toured with Jeff Beck during the last seven years.

Woodwind specialist and jazz great BILLY ROSS has been with the Woody Herman Orchestra since he was 17. He has played with everyone in the business -- from Natalie Cole and Barry Manilow to the Four Tops and the O'Jays -- as well as playing for 14 years on the Univision TV show, Sabado Gigante. He performs on four of the tracks.
THE BRITE SIDE features 10 compositions, including five originals by Harris and five others that feature his arrangements of classic jazz standards. The album opens with "Red Apple Sweet," a Lee Harris original. The song is written in several distinct sections, and the title is a pun on the word "suite." It features solos by Joseph on drums, GARY MAYONE on the B3 organ, and Balogh on trombone. "Pure Imagination," by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, with an arrangement by Harris, is a waltz featuring the saxophone section and a beautiful flugelhorn solo by Saunders. "After You've Gone, Finally" is Harris' take-off on the familiar standard. Saunders and Ross take solos on this tune as do Mayone on keys, and SCOTT KLARMAN on alto sax. "The Runner," an appealing Harris original, was inspired by a drive up the California coast in the fog. "Fourth Dimension," an up-tempo swing, is also a Harris original with a noteworthy solo by Saunders. It also features solos by RANDY EMERICK on baritone sax and LUKE WILLIAMS on guitar.
"The Brite Side," another Harris original, has an Americana feel, featuring solos by Ross on tenor sax and Bayoneon keys. "The Sound," a song co-composed by Billy Ross and Mike Levine, is an arrangement by Harris and a tribute to Stan Getz. "Summertime" features Klarman on a brilliant soprano sax solo. "Maria" is an anomaly on this album. Written by Leonard Bernstein with an arrangement by Don Sebesky, it features a solo by Noday, who played the chart with SUPERBAND. The CD closes with "A Train Bossa," a happy arrangement featuring Ross and Saunders
With sterling musicianship, exciting arrangements, and some rarely heard compositions that could have been taken right out of the Great American Songbook, THE BRITE SIDE, through the vision and guidance of Executive Producer Jeannette Piņa and Producer Michael Balogh, is a loving tribute to Lee Harris, an unheralded but much appreciated composer and arranger in the jazz world.

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