Barry Harris

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Barry Harris
Harris in 2007
Harris in 2007
Background information
Birth nameBarry Doyle Harris
Born (1929-12-15) December 15, 1929 (age 91)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader, composer, teacher
Years active1950s–present
LabelsPrestige, Riverside, Xanadu
Associated actsCannonball Adderley, Dexter Gordon, Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Yusef Lateef, Ryo Fukui

Barry Doyle Harris (born December 15, 1929)[1] is an American jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, arranger, and educator. He is an exponent of the bebop style.[2]


Harris in 1981
Barry Harris at the Jazz Cultural Theater in New York City on July 21, 1984

He was born in Detroit, Michigan, United States.[1] Harris began learning the piano at the age of four.[1] His mother, a church pianist, asked him if he was interested in playing church music or jazz. Having picked the latter, he was influenced by Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell.[1] In his teens, he learned bebop largely by ear, imitating solos by Powell. He claimed Powell's style was the "epitome" of jazz. He performed for dances in clubs and ballrooms.[3] He was based in Detroit through the 1950s and worked with Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, and Thad Jones,[1] and substituted for Junior Mance in the Gene Ammons band. In 1956, he toured briefly with Max Roach,[1] after Richie Powell, the band's pianist and younger brother of Bud Powell, died in a car crash.[4]

Harris performed with Cannonball Adderley's quintet and on television with them.[4] After moving to New York City, he worked as an educator and performed with Dexter Gordon, Illinois Jacquet, Yusef Lateef and Hank Mobley.[4] Between 1965 and 1969, he worked extensively with Coleman Hawkins at the Village Vanguard.[5]

During the 1970s, Harris lived with Monk at the Weehawken, New Jersey home of the jazz patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter.[6] He substituted for Monk in rehearsals at the New York Jazz Repertory Company in 1974.[7]

In Japan, he performed at the Yubin Chokin concert hall in Tokyo over two days, and his performances were recorded and compiled into an album released by Xanadu Records. Between 1982 and 1987, he led the Jazz Cultural Workshop on 8th Avenue in New York.[8]

Since the 1990s, Harris has collaborated with Howard Rees on videos and workbooks documenting his harmonic and improvisational systems and teaching process.[9][10] He has held music workshop sessions in New York City for vocalists, students of piano and other instruments.[11]

Harris appeared in the 1989 documentary film, Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (produced by Clint Eastwood), performing duets with Tommy Flanagan. In 2000, he was profiled in the film Barry Harris - Spirit of Bebop.[3]

Jazz Cultural Theater[edit]

Larry Ridley, Barry Harris, Jim Harrison, and Frank Fuentes were partners in creating the Jazz Cultural Theater beginning 1982.[12] Located at 368 Eighth Avenue in New York City in a storefront between 28th and 29th Streets in Manhattan, it was primarily a performance venue featuring prominent jazz artists and also hosted jam sessions. Additionally, it was known for Barry's music classes for vocalists and instrumentalists, each taught in separate sessions. Several artists recorded albums at the club, including Barry on his For the Moment. Some of the many musicians and notable jazz figures who appeared at the Jazz Cultural Theater were bassist Larry Ridley, guitarist Ted Dunbar, pianist Jack Wilson, trumpeter Bill Hardman, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, trumpeter Tommy Turrentine, alto saxophonist Charles McPherson, pianist Mickey Tucker, guitarist Peter Leitch, tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, guitarist Mark Elf, alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, drummer Leroy Williams, drummer Vernel Fournier, bassist Hal Dotson, bassist Jamil Nasser, pianist Chris Anderson, pianist Walter Davis, Jr., pianist Michael Weiss, tap dancers Lon Chaney and Jimmy Slyde, Francis Paudras (biographer of pianist Bud Powell), and the renowned jazz patroness Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, who would park her silver Bentley sedan in front of the club.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 2000 American Jazz Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievements & Contributions to the World of Jazz
  • 1998 Lifetime Achievements Award for Contributions to the Music World from the National Association of Negro Musicians
  • 1998 Congratulatory Letter as a Jazz Musician and Educator by the U.S. White House
  • 1997 Dizzy Gillespie Achievement Award
  • 1997 Recognition of Excellence in Jazz Music and Education
  • 1995 Doctor of Arts - Honorary Degree by Northwestern University
  • 1995 Presidential Award, Recognition of Dedication and Commitment to the Pursuance of Artistic Excellence in Jazz Performance and Education
  • 1995 Honorary Jazz Award by the House of Representatives[13][14]
  • 1989 NEA Jazz Master


As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
1958 Breakin' It Up Argo Trio, with William Austin (bass), Frank Gant (drums)
1960 Barry Harris at the Jazz Workshop Riverside Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums); in concert
1960 Listen to Barry Harris Riverside Solo piano
1960–61 Preminado Riverside One track solo piano; other tracks trio, with Joe Benjamin (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)
1961 Newer Than New Riverside Quintet, with Lonnie Hillyer (trumpet), Charles McPherson (alto sax), Ernie Farrow (bass), Clifford Jarvis (drums)
1962 Chasin' the Bird Riverside Trio, with Bob Cranshaw, (bass), Clifford Jarvis (drums)
1967 Luminescence! Prestige Sextet, with Slide Hampton (trombone), Junior Cook (tenor sax), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Lenny McBrowne (drums)
1968 Bull's Eye! Prestige Some tracks trio, with Paul Chambers (bass), Billy Higgins (drums); some tracks quintet, with Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Charles McPherson (tenor sax), Pepper Adams (baritone sax) added
1969 Magnificent! Prestige Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1972 Vicissitudes MPS Trio, with George Duvivier (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1975 Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron Xanadu Trio, with Gene Taylor (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1976 Live in Tokyo Xanadu Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); in concert
1978 Barry Harris Plays Barry Harris Xanadu Trio, with George Duvivier (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1979 The Bird of Red and Gold Xanadu Solo piano; Harris also sings on one track
1984 For the Moment Uptown Trio, with Rufus Reid (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); in concert
1990 Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Twelve Concord Solo piano
1991 Confirmation Candid Quartet, with Kenny Barron (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Ben Riley (drums); in concert
1991 Barry Harris in Spain Nuba Trio, with Chuck Israels (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); in concert
1995 Live at "Dug" Enja Trio, with Kunimitsu Inaba (bass), Fumio Watanabe (drums); in concert
1996 First Time Ever Alfa Jazz Trio, with George Mraz (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1998 I'm Old Fashioned Alfa Jazz Most tracks trio, with George Mraz (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); two tracks with Barry Harris Family Chorus (vocals) added
2000 The Last Time I Saw Paris Venus Trio, with George Mraz (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
2002 Live in New York Reservoir Quintet, with Charles Davis (tenor sax), Roni Ben-Hur (guitar), Paul West (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); in concert
2004 Live from New York!, Vol. One Lineage Trio, with John Webber (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
2009 Live in Rennes Plus Loin Trio, with Mathias Allamane (bass), Philippe Soirat (drums); in concert


As sideman[edit]

With Cannonball Adderley

With Joshua Breakstone

  • Wonderful! (Sonora, 1984)

With Charlie Byrd

With Donald Byrd

  • Byrd Jazz (Transition, 1955) - also released as First Flight (Delmark)

With Al Cohn

With Sonny Criss

With Art Farmer and Donald Byrd

With Dan Faulk

  • Focusing In (Criss Cross Jazz, 1992)

With Terry Gibbs

With Benny Golson

With Dexter Gordon

With Johnny Griffin

With Coleman Hawkins

With Louis Hayes

With Jimmy Heath

With Buck Hill

With Illinois Jacquet

With Eddie Jefferson

With Carmell Jones

With Thad Jones

With Sam Jones

With Clifford Jordan

With Lee Konitz

With Harold Land

With Yusef Lateef

With Warne Marsh

With Earl May

  • Swinging the Blues (Arbors, 2005)

With Charles McPherson

With Billy Mitchell

With Hank Mobley

With James Moody

With Frank Morgan

With Lee Morgan

With Sal Nistico

With Dave Pike

With Sonny Red

With Red Rodney

With Jack Sheldon

With Sonny Stitt

With Don Wilkerson

See also[edit]

  • Bebop scale, one of the education tools in jazz that Harris pioneered


  1. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 190/1. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ Milkowski, Bill (1998). "Barry Harris: Young-hearted elder". Jazz Times.
  3. ^ a b Barry Harris: Spirit of Bebop. Efor Films. 2004.
  4. ^ a b c Barry Kernfeld, ed. (2002). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz Second edition. London, England: Macmillan. p. 177. ISBN 033369189X.
  5. ^ Greg Thomas (16 July 2012). "Bebop legend Barry Harris set to burn up Village Vanguard with 2-week gig". New York Daily News. New York. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  6. ^ Watrous, Peter. "Be-Bop's Generous Romantic", The New York Times, May 28, 1994. Accessed June 2, 2008. "Mr. Harris moved to New York in the early 1960s and became friends with Thelonious Monk and Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, Mr. Monk's patron. Eventually, Mr. Harris moved to her estate in Weehawken, N.J., where he still lives."
  7. ^ Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian (1988). Jazz The Essential Companion. New York: Prentice Hall Press. ISBN 0-13-509274-4.
  8. ^ Greg Thomas (July 16, 2012). "Bebop legend Barry Harris set to burn up Village Vanguard with 2-week gig". New York Daily News. New York. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  9. ^ "Evolutionary Voicings, Part 1 – Howard Rees' Jazz Workshops". Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  10. ^ "About Howard Rees – Howard Rees' Jazz Workshops". Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  11. ^ "Barry Harris Residency April 7 through 10". Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  12. ^ "Larry Ridley - Biography". Archived from the original on 2017-12-28. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  13. ^ "Recognition Awards to Barry Harris for Outstanding Devotion to Music and Education". 2014.
  14. ^ "Barry Harris facts, information, pictures". Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  15. ^ "Barry Harris Discography". Retrieved December 20, 2018.

External links[edit]