The Anita Harris Quartet made its debut to a Jazz audience in 1993 at the Merimbula Jazz Festival. In the decades since, variations thereof have entertained jazz fans with their characteristic interpretation of their favourite tunes.
Anita Harris provides cool jazz vocals, accompanied by Kim Harris in perfect sympathy on keyboards, while Alan Richards lays down the beat on drums. Evan Harris' rhythmic rapport on the bass is still an occasional treat but in recent years the accomplished Leon Heale, who joined the line-up for the band’s second album, has since appeared with them many times at festivals and gigs. And whenever the opportunity presents, Graeme Steel on trumpet and Ron Trigg on reeds complete the line-up for the Anita Harris and Friends experience.
The band has a sizable repertoire of great jazz standards, appears at venues around Melbourne and is often featured at jazz festivals. Marysville, Mornington, Inverloch, Port Fairy, Halls Gap, Dubbo and Merimbula are among the band's favourite destinations, with others periodically providing a change of scene and the chance to meet a new audience.
In 1998 the Quartet gathered a few friends to record their first CD. Their debut album was titled Moments in Time and included the most loved and requested tunes from the Quartet's extensive song list. Selecting the tunes was no easy task but one song caused no debate - Laura. The haunting composition is the one most requested by jazz audiences, and one song that never seems to grow old for the band despite being a part of Anita's repertoire long before that 1993 performance.
In 2005 Anita released her second recording, The Wee Small Hours, under the New Market label. The album was launched to full house at the Inverloch Jazz Festival in March that year and has since received some great reviews and regular airplay.
For Anita, 2006 brought both a milestone and the realisation of a dream with the release of My Heart Belongs to Jazz, a two-out piano-vocal album featuring some of the favourite versed jazz tunes of the well versed father-daughter team.
The band returned to the studio recently to finally record their 4th album, Here’s Looking At You. This recording, which marks the band’s 20 year anniversary on the Australian Jazz scene, features a wonderful selection worthy of the milestone.
The arrival of 2013 marked Anita Harris made her jazz debut at the 1993 Merimbula jazz festival, and was an instant sensation. Since then she has appeared at many jazz festivals, and other public and private gigs around Melbourne. Favourite "employers" include the South Coast Jazz Club, Victorian Jazz Club, Victoria's Grape Grazing festival and a number of wineries who felt Anita's smooth vocal styling was the perfect accompaniment to this year's shiraz.
Over the years her performances have been well received, with one Jazzline reviewer referring to her as "the goddess of the festival" (1996). She is most often seen in a band setting, favouring four and five piece groups, although with father Kim on piano the "Well-Versed Harris Duo" specialises in jazz interpretations of songs including their verses, many of which are rarely heard. Anita realised one dream when in 2006 she released a piano/vocal album representing her Well-Versed favourites. Her repertoire of jazz songs, from which the material on the CDs are a representative selection, now exceeds 400 and is growing every year.
Graeme Steel (trumpet). For many years has been Anita's front line player of choice at festivals and other gigs where the budget runs to an extra player. One of the things we agreed upon when mixing The Wee Small Hours was that it contained 10 tracks of absolute vintage "Steely", whether open or muted, filling or soloing.
Graeme has been playing jazz trumpet for over 50 years and his ability to provide sensitive backing for vocalists makes him a popular choice at concerts and festivals. He also has the distinction of being one of the few musicians to have appeared at every Inverloch Jazz Festival, and served as its Musical Director for four years.
Leon Heale (bass). One of Melbourne's best and hardest-worked bass players joined the Anita Harris Quartet for the recording of The Wee Small Hours. Leon ventures that his best work has been as an accompanist to vocalists and takes his support role very seriously.
Rewards have been some tours with James Morrison in the early nineties and some late night talk shows with Joe Chindamo.
Alan Richards (drums). Part of the Anita Harris Quartet since its beginnings in 1993. Started as a rock drummer, gravitating to jazz more than 35 years ago. A jazz festival tragic, he has attended every Australian Jazz Convention since 1976 and numerous other festivals where his pickup bands under the acronym ARQ (for Alan Richards Quartet or Quintet; God save us from sextets and septets) always feature the free-swinging mainstream jazz nearest to his heart.
According to the jazz Calendar Beasley's First Eleven and Twelfth Man 2005 on which he represents July, he has the distinction of having played on Broadway during a recent U.S. holiday.
He contributes an inspired performance on every recording including one tag on The Wee Small Hours where his snare drum is replaced by a chair seat!
Kim Harris (piano and electric piano). Since hearing Fats Waller in 1955 ruined his prospects of a career in classical music, he has steadily widened his influences and repertoire over 50 years to become a widely respected jazz pianist on the Melbourne jazz scene.
He played in the legendary "431 Band" in the sixties, and in sundry trios over the seventies and eighties, also performing Waller's 18-minute London Suite a number of times in the Melbourne Jazz Repertory Company's Waller tribute The Joint is Jumpin".
Kim has been described as "knowing more songs than anyone" and "the perfect piano accompanist", and while both these statements are undoubtedly exaggerations, they reflect the experience, sympathy and pride he brings to his daughter's every performance, both as player and arranger.
Ron Trigg (flute, tenor sax, clarinet). One of Melbourne's most versatile musicians, equally at home in a big band or a small jazz group. His many credits include leading the Power House big band during that venue's vintage years, and he too is a festival veteran.
He has a special connection with Inverloch through his leadership of the Good News Big Band, which provided the music for the festival's Combined Churches Jazz Service for a number of years. As well as appearing on both Anita's CDs, Ron is an integral part of Pippa Wilson's recording group, and in that capacity appeared in the launch of her recording The Gospel According to Pippa Wilson at the 2005 Inverloch Festival.