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
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedDecember 8, 2021(2021-12-08) (aged 91)
North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader, composer, teacher
Years active1950s–2021
LabelsPrestige, Riverside, Xanadu
Barry Harris, Detroit International Jazz Festival

Barry Doyle Harris (December 15, 1929 – December 8, 2021) was an American jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, arranger, and educator. He was an exponent of the bebop style.[1][2]

Life and career[edit]

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

Harris was born on December 15, 1929, in Detroit, Michigan, to Melvin Harris and Bessie as the fourth of their five children.[3][1] Harris took piano lessons from his mother at the age of four.[3] 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.[3] In his teens, he learned bebop largely by ear, imitating solos by Powell. He described Powell's style as being the "epitome" of jazz. He performed for dances in clubs and ballrooms.[4] He was based in Detroit through the 1950s and worked with Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, and Thad Jones,[3] and substituted for Junior Mance in the Gene Ammons band. In 1956, he toured briefly with Max Roach,[3] after Richie Powell, the band's pianist and younger brother of Bud Powell, died in a car crash.[5]

Harris performed with Cannonball Adderley's quintet and on television with them.[5] After moving to New York City, he worked as an educator and performed with Dexter Gordon, Illinois Jacquet, Yusef Lateef and Hank Mobley.[5] Between 1965 and 1969, he worked extensively with Coleman Hawkins at the Village Vanguard.[6]

During the 1970s, Harris lived with Monk at the Weehawken, New Jersey, home of the jazz patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter.[7] He substituted for Monk in rehearsals at the New York Jazz Repertory Company in 1974.[8]

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.[9]

From the 1990s onwards, Harris collaborated with Howard Rees on videos and workbooks documenting his harmonic and improvisational systems and teaching process.[10][11] He held music workshop sessions in New York City for vocalists, students of piano and other instruments.[12]

Harris appeared in the 1989 documentary film Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (produced by Clint Eastwood's own production company), performing duets with Tommy Flanagan. In 1999, he was profiled in the film Barry Harris: Spirit of Bebop.[4][13]

He continued his weekly workshops even during the COVID-19 pandemic, in an online format.[14]

Harris died from complications of COVID-19 at a hospital in North Bergen, New Jersey, on December 8, 2021, seven days before his 92nd birthday.[1][14]

Jazz Cultural Theatre[edit]

Larry Ridley, Barry Harris, Jim Harrison, and Frank Fuentes were partners in creating the Jazz Cultural Theatre beginning 1982.[15] 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 Harris'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 Theatre 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, drummer Jimmy Lovelace, 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 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[16][17]
  • 1989 NEA Jazz Master


As leader[edit]

Recording date Title Label Year released Personnel/Notes
1958-07 Breakin' It Up Argo 1959 Trio, with William Austin (bass), Frank Gant (drums)
1960-05 Barry Harris at the Jazz Workshop Riverside 1960 Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums); in concert
1960-12 Listen to Barry Harris Riverside 1961 Solo piano
Preminado Riverside 1961 One track solo piano; other tracks trio, with Joe Benjamin (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)
1961-09 Newer Than New Riverside 1961 Quintet, with Lonnie Hillyer (trumpet), Charles McPherson (alto sax), Ernie Farrow (bass), Clifford Jarvis (drums)
Chasin' the Bird Riverside 1962 Trio, with Bob Cranshaw, (bass), Clifford Jarvis (drums)
1967-04 Luminescence! Prestige 1967 Sextet, with Slide Hampton (trombone), Junior Cook (tenor sax), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Lenny McBrowne (drums)
1968-06 Bull's Eye! Prestige 1968 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
1969-11 Magnificent! Prestige 1970 Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1972 Vicissitudes MPS 1975 Trio, with George Duvivier (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1975-06 Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron Xanadu 1975 Trio, with Gene Taylor (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1976-04 Live in Tokyo Xanadu 1976 Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); in concert
1978-01 Barry Harris Plays Barry Harris Xanadu 1978 Trio, with George Duvivier (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1979-09 The Bird of Red and Gold Xanadu 1982 Solo piano; Harris also sings on one track
1984-03 For the Moment Uptown 1985 Trio, with Rufus Reid (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); in concert
1990-03 Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Twelve Concord 1991 Solo piano; in concert
1991-09 Confirmation Candid 1992 Quartet, with Kenny Barron (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Ben Riley (drums); in concert
1991-12 Barry Harris in Spain Nuba 1992 Trio, with Chuck Israels (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); in concert
1995-05 Live at "Dug" Enja 1997 Trio, with Kunimitsu Inaba (bass), Fumio Watanabe (drums); in concert
1996-10 First Time Ever Alfa Jazz 1997 Trio, with George Mraz (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1998-04 I'm Old Fashioned Alfa Jazz 1998 Most tracks trio, with George Mraz (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); two tracks with Barry Harris Family Chorus (vocals) added
2000-06 The Last Time I Saw Paris Venus 2000 Trio, with George Mraz (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
2002-08 Live in New York Reservoir 2003 Quintet, with Charles Davis (tenor sax), Roni Ben-Hur (guitar), Paul West (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); in concert
2004-05 Live from New York!, Vol. One Lineage 2006 Trio, with John Webber (bass), Leroy Williams (drums); in concert
2009-11 Live in Rennes Plus Loin 2010 Trio, with Mathias Allamane (bass), Philippe Soirat (drums); in concert


As sideman[edit]

See also[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b c Russonello, Giovanni (2021-12-09). "Barry Harris, Pianist and Devoted Scholar of Bebop, Dies at 91". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-12-30.
  2. ^ Milkowski, Bill (1998). "Barry Harris: Young-hearted elder". Jazz Times.
  3. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 190/1. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  4. ^ a b Barry Harris: Spirit of Bebop. Efor Films. 2004.
  5. ^ a b c Barry Kernfeld, ed. (2002). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz Second edition. London, England: Macmillan. p. 177. ISBN 033369189X.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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."
  8. ^ Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian (1988). Jazz The Essential Companion. New York: Prentice Hall Press. ISBN 0-13-509274-4.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Evolutionary Voicings, Part 1 – Howard Rees' Jazz Workshops". Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  11. ^ "About Howard Rees – Howard Rees' Jazz Workshops". Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  12. ^ "Barry Harris Residency April 7 through 10". Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  13. ^ "Barry Harris Spirit of Bebop". Library of Congress. Retrieved November 21, 2023.
  14. ^ a b Stryker, Mark (2021-12-08). "Barry Harris, beloved jazz pianist devoted to bebop, dies at 91". NPR. Retrieved 2021-12-30.
  15. ^ "Larry Ridley - Biography". Archived from the original on 2017-12-28. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  16. ^ "Recognition Awards to Barry Harris for Outstanding Devotion to Music and Education". 2014.
  17. ^ "Barry Harris facts, information, pictures". Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  18. ^ "Barry Harris Discography". Retrieved December 20, 2018.

External links[edit]