Called ‘the Jimmy Hendrix of the violin’, compared with Eric Clapton and spoken of in the same breath with the likes of Jean Luc Ponty, violinist Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris was the master of jazz inflected rock ‘n roll on his instrument. His association with Frank Zappa brought him into the limelight, but he also played and recorded with John Lee Hooker, Little Richard and rhythm & blues legend Johnny Otis, the man who gave him the nickname ‘Sugarcane’. L.A. guitarist Randy Resnick reminisced about working with Harris, “All I can say is that I never got chills in any other band like the ones I got when Don took off…it was tribal, it was primitive and it was real...
Cup Full of Dreams
On this classic outing Sugarcane Harris added his longtime friend and playing partner, keyboardist Dewey Perry, to the Pure Food and Drug Act, the Los Angeles band Harris fronted in the early 1970s. These musicians experienced successful solo careers and worked with the likes of Canned Heat, Tower of Power, Herbie Hancock, and John Mayall. The jazzy blues Running Away finds Sugarcane in top form as he deftly sprints through a series of triplet runs. Just about everyone gets a taste here, including drummer Paul Lagos, who trades fours with Harris. Hattie’s Bathtub plays out in a comfortable ¾ underlying a four bar chordal riff. Riveting violin and guitar solos! There’s a driving, primordial beat to Bad Feet, as Harris and co. emotively solo over the pentatonic line, whereas Cup Full of Dreams is a lyrical jazz fantasy waltzing its way towards pathos. Generation of Vipers rocks ‘n rolls its way into the funky grit of soul. Guitarist Randy Resnick said it best: “Don had a swing to his playing, a groove, a soulfulness that you don't hear anywhere else. No one plays with such gut-wrenching rawness.”