**Edition of 500** Born in Mississippi in 1937 and beginning to play the saxophone at 14, Billie Harris relocated to Los Angeles in 1965 after a 4 year stint in the Air Force, becoming one of the great, unsung forces of underground jazz in the city for many years (he later relocated to the Mojave Desert, where, at last record, he still plays in a church band). A Venice Beach street musician and longtime member of the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra - you can hear him playing on Live at I.U.C.C. and Flight 17, as well as Jesse Sharps Quintet & P.A.P.A.’s Sharps and Flats (reissued in 2018) - he was also director of the AZZ IZZ jazz club in Venice Beach during the 70s.
On April 29 and May 3, 1980, Harris entered the studio, backed by Horace Tapscott on piano, David Bryant on bass, Daa’oud Woods on percussion, and Everett Brown Jr on drums, recording, over those two days what was to be his only outing as a leader. Once heard, the tragic lack of further material can’t be ignored. It is a truly stunning piece of work, even more surprising for the fact that it sat unreleased for over 20 years, only to be released as a small, poorly mastered edition on CD during the early 2000’s. Now, finally appearing very first time on the format and label for which it was intended, 40 years after it was recorded, we can hear this lost gem in all its glory.
Harris was 43 years old at the time of the Nimbus West sessions that resulted in I Want Some Water, and the power and experience of his playing, honed over three decades, shows in full force. The band is equally imbued with power, sensitivity, and experience. Tapscott, Bryant, and Brown’s working partnership goes back to 1969, when they recorded Tapscott’s debut as a leader, The Giant Is Awakened. In quintet’s hands, channeling the heavy modal relationships pioneered by Coltrane, heavy spiritual groove lock and unfurl, threaded by the release via incredibly forward-thinking improvisation.
Like so much of the work that came out of the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra scene, I Want Some Water has a giant sound, each track long in length, building slowly over time toward towering heights that leave the listener immersed in one of the greatest treasures of spiritual jazz that almost nobody ever heard. Rhythmic, rollicking, and tonally inspired, the joyous interplay of the band goes deep, locked in, and challenging the predictable path, while making nods to numerous, discreet traditions of music.
As far as reissues go, Nimbus’ first ever vinyl pressing of Harris’ I Want Some Water is about as good as it gets. Not only does it deliver some of the best music we’ve heard all year, but it takes huge steps toward allowing a crucial artist to be celebrated in a way that he’s always deserved. Cut directly from the original master tapes, featuring brand new artwork from the original sessions and liner notes from Mark Weber, and issued in a limited edition of 500 copies, it’s an absolute must that can’t be missed.