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Billie Harris Quintet sessions | I Want Some Water

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

BILLIE HARRIS QUINTET sessions I WANT SOME WATER

My first meeting with Tom Albach was at Century City Playhouse when a Horace Tapscott Trio was playing there that included Alex Cline and Roberto Miranda. Tom had been following my column on the Los Angeles scene in CODA. We hit it off immediately.

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Sometime thereafter Tom hired me to photo his recording sessions for his label Nimbus. The first sessions I photographed for Tom were the Horace Tapscott DIAL B FOR BARBRA sessions on February 26, 1980, then the Linda Hill sessions on April 25, 1980, and the next were the two monumental Billie Harris Quintet sessions at United Western Studios on Sunset Blvd on April 29 and May 3, 1980.

Horace Tapscott Trio | Century City Playhouse | February 10, 1980 | Horace Tapscott, piano; Roberto Miranda, bass; Alex Cline, drums | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie was a Venice Beach street musician and saxophonist in the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. He started playing saxophone at age 14 — he was born in Laurel, Mississippi, February 15, 1937. He had been close friends with the bebop master Little Bennie Harris (no relation). In the middle-70s he was director of the AZZ IZZ jazz club in Venice, and just prior to these sessions he had been ordained a minister. He was 43 years old at the time of these Nimbus West sessions.


Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie enlisted in the military (U.S. Air Force), “I volunteered for a four-year hitch in 1955.” In 1965 he relocated to Los Angeles.


Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie now lives in Lancaster, California, in the Mojave Desert. I spoke to him over the telephone March 5, 2012. Tom Albach says that Billie still plays in a church band. I asked him if he still plays the saxophone? He speaks in slow measured phrases these days, he said, “Is there anything else? Yeh.”


Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Horace & Lorelei (singer on “Prayer of Happiness”) Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

From my field notes April 29, 1980: Daa’oud Woods is Billie’s duet partner playing on the Venice boardwalk and is also a member of Billie’s group The Azz Izz Jazz Ensemble.

This night they recorded:

  • 1. “I Want Some Water” 2 takes
  • 2. “Blues for Lupe”
  • 3. “Sinclair Station” unissued
  • 4. “The Advocate” 2 takes — incomplete 2nd take (David Bryant had an episode brought on from the malaria he picked up in Africa when he was in the army — he did a slow fade, slowly falling backwards off his stool. We in the control room yelled over the talk-back mike, and the two closest musicians grabbed him and his bass before he fell. This concluded the session.


Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

From my field notes for the follow-up session May 3 (you can identify this session because Billie is wearing a long-sleeve shirt).

They record:

  • 1. “Prayer of Happiness” 4 takes with vocals by Morene aka “Lorelei”
  • 2. “The Advocate”
  • 3. “Snide Remarks” (My field notes lists this tune but Tom Albach says it wasn’t on the cassette he took home that night for preview — I might have wrote this down as a tune Billie was considering)

All tunes composed by Billie Harris, although one day hanging with Billie he told me, “I didn’t write those songs, most of them come from my children. I be listenin’ to them. And I learn a lot, too! So, I keep listening to them. That song ‘I Want Some Water’, my daughter had to tell me, because you have to tell me things several times before they go in my ear. First she just said: Daddy, I want some water. Daddy, I want some water.” Then it turned into singing, ‘I want some water, I want some water, I want some water.” (Field notes/interview May 9, 1980)


Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

“Blues for Lupe” he told me he wrote in collaboration together with his kids.


Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

I mentioned how great Horace sounds with his music. Billie said, “Oh yeah, Horace is a monster. He’s hard, but he’s soft. He’s good to play with. He mashes up against you — laughter — yeah, mashes up, like TELL ME MORE, tell me MORE.” (May 9, 1980)


Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

When they were working on “The Advocate” at the session, Billie told Everett: “This is a salsa by way of St Louis.” When they were recording “Prayer of Happiness” Billie cajoled Morene to join in and sing: “Come on barnyard people!”


Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

This was Billie Harris first time in a recording studio.

Billie Harris Quintet session | United-Western Studios, Hollywood, California | Billie Harris, tenor & soprano saxophones; Horace Tapscott, piano; David Bryant, bass; Daa’oud Woods, percussion; Everett Brown Jr, drums | April 29 and May 3, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Engineer Ed Perry and Tom Albach | April 29, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Ed Perry, Tom Albach (in rear), and Horace Tapscott | April 29, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Nimbus West producer Tom Albach & Billie Harris | April 29, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Nimbus West producer Tom Albach & Billie Harris | April 29, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

This session never made it to LP. It sat around in the Nimbus vaults until release on CD in 1999. The master tapes got swallowed up at Paramount where they wound up and Tom couldn’t work a deal, so the CD version is derived from his reference cassette. Sounds just fine.


Hanging out at Billie’s pad in Venice Beach | 561 Brooks Avenue | May 9, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber


Hanging out at Billie’s pad in Venice Beach
| 561 Brooks Avenue | May 9, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Hanging out at Billie’s pad in Venice Beach | 561 Brooks Avenue | May 9, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Everett Brown Jr has always lived half in Los Angeles and half in his hometown of Kansas City. He is the drummer on Horace’s first album A GIANT IS AWAKENED. As well, he’s the drummer on the Horace Tapscott-Sonny Criss date SONNY’S TIME NOW. He had been with Horace since 1964 — “real steady 1964-1975.” May of 1975 he moved back to KC to assist his aging parents. Everett has played with Charles Kynard, H.Ray Crawford, Jimmy Smith, Esther Phillips, Sonny Stitt, John Handy in Oakland in the early 60s, and with Bay Area drummer Eddie Moore. He also made the 2-week engagement in the late-60s at the It Club, Los Angeles, with the Harold Land-Hampton Hawes Quartet (whew! sure love to hear this). He was teaching at the Charlie Parker Foundation in KC, November 1975 – October 1978. He stuck around town for the upcoming Linda Hill session and then went back to KC on May 4. At that time he kept a band in KC called Slick.

When I talked to Billie in Lancaster the other day I asked if he misses Venice Beach. He said, “Yes, tremendously.” Long pause. “Yeh, I moved out here. I made the decision. It was a good and bad decision,” laughing. “I’m used to the breeze.” I told him how much his record I WANT SOME WATER means to me, and he said, “Thank you, I could use some water right now,” laughing in reference to the desert atmosphere of Lancaster.

Hanging out at Billie’s place | May 9, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Hanging out at Billie’s place |  David Bryant, Morris Kerry | May 9, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Hanging out at Billie’s place | May 9, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Hanging out at Billie’s place | May 9, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

Hanging out at Billie’s place | Billie Harris, David Bryant, Morris Kerry | May 9, 1980 | Photo by Mark Weber

And then somebody was knocking on his door and Billie said, “I’m going to have to cut out, now.” And we said our Goodbyes and he added, “It’s always a pleasure, call me back.” Unfailingly polite, as always.

Mark Weber | April 11, 2012

Billie Harris

I Want Some Water

Tracklist: 1. Prayer of Happiness (B. Harris) [8:00] Download (excerpt) 2. I Want Some Water (B. Harris) [10:00] Download (excerpt) 3. The Advocate (B. Harris) [9:00] Download (excerpt) 4. Blues for Lupé (B. Harris) [10:30] Download (excerpt)

Billie Harris—reeds | Horace Tapscott—piano | David Bryant—bass | Everett Brown Jr.—drums | Daa’oud Woods—percussion | Lorelei—vocals

All tunes | MaeTribo B.M.I, except “Many Nights Ago” | Obelene B.M.I, and “Why Don’t You Listen?”|  Obelene B.M.I. Sound |  studio-’83—Dennis Moody. I.U.C.C.-’79—Bruce Bidlack. Producer | Tom Albach. Design | J.B. Bryan. “then” photo | Mark Weber. All Rights Reserved © 1999 Nimbus West Records

The following recorded in the Immanuel United Church of Christ 85th & Holmes, Los Angeles. Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra

5. Many Nights Ago (C. Crunk) [16:30] Billie Harris—soprano saxophone | Sabir Matteen—tenor saxophone | John Williams—baritone saxophone | Lester Robertson—trombone | Adele Sebastian—flute | Aubrey Hart—flute | Alan Hines—bass | Roberta Miranda—bass (solo) | Billy Hinton—drums | Daa’oud Woods—percussion | Horace Tapscott—piano Download (excerpt)

6. Why Don’t You Listen? [8:30] (Horace Tapscott) Horace Tapscott—solo piano Download (excerpt)

Nimbus West Records/Tom Albach, 548 Pinon Creek Road SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87123-3903

All praises and honor belong to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ— not me, I exist because of His Grace.

I was born 2/15/37 TO Jesse and Willie Mae Harris in Laurel, Mississippi. Moved to St. Louis, MO as a baby, where I was raised. I am one of six children, starting from the youngest: Buddy (Dwight), Ronnie (Ronald), Trisia (Patricia), Bobby (Leroy), me, and Mimi (Jessie Mae). With this solid foundation and the love and nurturing of my wife, Mrs. Jacquiline Denise Harris, I owe my existence.

My daddy bought me a “C” Melody sax when I was 14 to silence a bugle my Uncle James had given me. Either that or he thought I had potential. My mother traded the “C” Melody for an alto sax because Mr. Morgan, my elementary school music teacher said it was an outdated horn. And so it began, my love affair with the music.

I enlisted into the Air Force at eighteen and served from 1955-59. The first part of my stint was playing in clubs and service centers in North Africa. The last year I traveled with the Air Force “Tops in Blue” Band to Puerto Rico, Balboa (Canal Zone), and Bermuda. At this time I switched from alto to tenor. After the service I played all over St. Louis and East St. Louis before moving to L.A. in the late sixties.

1969 found me living in a Helms Bread truck with my former wife (a flutist) and two very small children. I had hooked up with Benny Harris (trumpet player) and we were playing around the beach (where the music seemed to be more popular). Benny (he was older) became my mentor, laying a lot of wisdom on me.

We decided to try and find a place where we could “play for pay” and as luck would have it we found a house on West Washington Blvd. in Venice not far from the beach. It was in a compound of buildings the owners of which wanted a sort of artistic atmosphere. There was a potter, a picture framer, and several small unusual restaurants. They were delighted to have someone offering jazz music in, as they called it—The Venice Place. So we moved in upstairs, knocked all the walls down downstairs, and the Azz Izz Jazz Club was born. From 1970 to 78, the Azz Izz attracted some of the jazz world’s luminaries: Horace Tapscott and the “Ark” (which I played in when my duties at the “Izz” weren’t pressing), Billy Higgins, Gene Shaw, George Morrow, Art Blakey, George Cables, Blue Mitchell, Billy Mitchell, Ray Draper, Vinny Golia, Billy Childs, Jimmy Forrest, Bobby Hutcherson, and many more. I mention these people because of their dedication in keeping the music alive.

In the early days of the Izz someone left behind an old York soprano sax. I started playing it and fell in love with it.

In what gave me great joy, the Westminster Elementary School (across the street) used to bring the kids over on field trips to hear us play jazz. All in all, the eight years were wonderful fun and, musically speaking, the most rewarding period of my life.

In 1978 however, my marriage hit the rocks and I was granted custody of, by then, four children. With them being the most important part of my life I realized that more time had to be spent on the increasing responsiabilities of parenthood. So the Azz Izz became the Waz Izz. It was time to move on.

Serving the Highest Art
Billie Harris


Temple of Man (church charter) | Photo by Mark Weber