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PITTSBURGH JAZZ

 

From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.

 

Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?

 

Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.

 

For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.

 

Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.

 

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Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words

Barry Harris 1929 – 2021

The master pianist and teacher proselytized tirelessly for bebop, and was one of its finest practitioners


Barry Harris Barry Harris in 1999 (photo: Alan Nahigian)

Barry Harris, a pianist, educator, and bebop true believer who spread its gospel far and wide—to audiences, record buyers, and students in equal measure—died on the morning of December 8 at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, New Jersey. He was one week shy of his 92nd birthday.

His death was reported widely on social media and confirmed by a friend, Kira von Ostenfeld-Suske, who told National Public Radio that Harris had been hospitalized for two weeks. Cause of death was complications of COVID-19.

Although the term “authenticity” has lost some of its luster in discussions of jazz, Harris was absolutely redolent of it. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he was part of a bumper crop of musicians from that city who became crucial players in the second wave of bebop. Along with fellow Detroiters Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan, he was a key pianist in that wave, working with the likes of Max Roach, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, and Cannonball and Nat Adderley in the late 1950s and early ’60s. He also launched an impressive solo career that included 25 albums under his own name across five decades.

Far more so than his contemporaries, however, Harris was a scholar and theoretician of the music. Listening to records by Thelonious Monk and (especially) Bud Powell, he puzzled out the structures and devices of bebop piano and translated them into rubrics that could be taught, studied, and replicated. He even formulated his own approach to harmony, the Barry Harris harmonic method, still a bedrock of jazz education.

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“Harris codified the language of modern jazz into an integrated system,” journalist Mark Stryker wrote in his seminal book Jazz from Detroit, “and, like a swinging Socrates, has guided students for more than 60 years in a quest for truth, beauty, and the hippest chords to play on ‘Embraceable You.’”

Unlike many other postwar jazz didacts, however, Harris did little of his teaching in a classroom. His academic CV was entirely in the realm of temporary residencies and master classes; his real work as an educator was done at the piano, whether in one-on-one interfaces or on bandstands. Thus, only a small handful of musicians can claim to have learned from Harris in a formal-education sense, but those who learned from him at an open workshop, in private lessons, at a jam session, or just in conversation are innumerable.

His playing style, while showing an undeniable Bud Powell influence, was much like his learning had been: thoughtful, logical, and careful—even at the breakneck tempos he could easily achieve. Never, however, did it lack for soul or a full embrace of the music’s cultural heritage. “Watching him was like getting transported via time machine back to a 52nd St jazz club in 1945 [and] hearing modern jazz from the source,” music writer and historian Ted Gioia wrote on Twitter.

“The balance between intellect and soul or intuition is something that cannot be explained in words,” Harris explained in a 2017 email to interviewer Simon Sargsyan. “It is a feeling — soul is of the spirit- it can not be broken down into discursive language — intellect is in some ways acquired – soul or spirit is your original being-or pure being so its passive not active — you do not acquire it-you can not study your way into it.”

Barry Doyle Harris was born December 15, 1929 in Detroit, the fourth of five children. His father, Melvin, was a factory worker for the Ford Motor Company and later a mechanic; his mother, Bessie (née Johnson), was a church pianist. It was from his mother that Harris began receiving piano lessons when he was four. (He had little relationship with his father, who split from his mother at an early age.)

Harris recalled that for the first 10 years of his life, he heard nothing but church music. In his teen years he became enamored with Fats Waller, Earl Hines, and Art Tatum—the giants of swing piano—then, at 17, he encountered Bud Powell, playing on record with trumpeter Fats Navarro. He immediately began pursuing bebop, learning Powell solos by ear and analyzing them for their harmonic language. Before he turned 21, Harris had learned enough to make his first recording, “Hopper Topper” (with tenor saxophonist Frank Foster), for the New Song label.

In 1954, Harris became house pianist at the Blue Bird Inn, Detroit’s top bebop jazz club; the band also included baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams and drummer Elvin Jones, and would accompany top-line musicians who passed through Detroit. Between the Blue Bird Inn and the nearby Rouge Lounge, Harris worked with Miles Davis, Roy Eldridge, Lee Konitz, Lester Young, and others without ever leaving Detroit. However, he did leave eventually—first to tour with Max Roach in 1956, then, permanently, with Cannonball Adderley in 1960. He settled in New York later that year. In the mid-’60s, he would move into the house in Weehawken, New Jersey, owned by the Baroness Pannonica “Nica” de Koenigswarter; he lived there until his death.

Before he had even left Detroit, twentysomething Harris had come to be seen by fellow musicians (including Donald Byrd and saxophonist Charles McPherson) as a teacher, mentor, and father figure. This role only intensified once he relocated to New York—and it didn’t stay there either. Harris used his touring dates as platforms to teach and workshop with musicians, forging lasting relationships with players and educators across the U.S. and around the world.

In the hours after his death was reported, social media was awash with stories of playing with and learning from Harris, including tributes from Christian McBride, Jason Moran, Monty Alexander, Sheila Jordan, Russell Malone, Ethan Iverson, and multitudes more. Each shared stories of performances, jams, lessons, or just simple questions and answers with the pianist. That enormous legacy outstrips even his finest recordings.

He continued throughout his life to advocate and express concern for the future of the music. “When I came up, we’d perform for our contemporaries. We played at dances where all the young people came,” he told Sargsyan. “I feel sorry for the young musicians today because they don’t bring their contemporaries with them. I think maybe they should try to perform on television, because that attracts large audiences, and there hasn’t been much jazz on TV for many years. Something needs to be done to bring jazz back on a larger scale with new audiences.”

Harris is survived by his daughter Carol Harris Geyer and son-in-law Keith Geyer, both of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.

Inside the Barry Harris Method

Barry Harris: Teacher Man

Barry Harris: Young-Hearted Elder


MICHAEL J. WEST

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.

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Replies to This Discussion

See also[edit source]

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

References[edit source]

  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c Barry Harris, beloved jazz pianist devoted to bebop, dies at 91
  2. ^ Milkowski, Bill (1998). "Barry Harris: Young-hearted elder". Jazz Times.
  3. ^ Jump up to: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. ^ Jump up to:a b Barry Harris: Spirit of Bebop. Efor Films. 2004.
  5. ^ Jump up to: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-w.... 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-w.... New York Daily News. New York. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  10. ^ "Evolutionary Voicings, Part 1 – Howard Rees' Jazz Workshops". Jazzworkshops.com. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  11. ^ "About Howard Rees – Howard Rees' Jazz Workshops". Jazzworkshops.com. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  12. ^ "Barry Harris Residency April 7 through 10". Brown.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  13. ^ "Larry Ridley - Biography". Larryridley.com. Archived from the original on 2017-12-28. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  14. ^ "Recognition Awards to Barry Harris for Outstanding Devotion to Mus.... Barryharris.com. 2014.
  15. ^ "Barry Harris facts, information, pictures". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  16. ^ "Barry Harris Discography". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved December 20, 2018.

External links[edit source]

Discography[edit source]

As leader[edit source]

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

Source:[16]

As sideman[edit source]

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

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

Career[edit source]

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

Harris was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 15, 1929.[3] Harris began learning the piano 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), performing duets with Tommy Flanagan. In 2000, he was profiled in the film Barry Harris - Spirit of Bebop.[4]

Harris continued his weekly workshops even during the COVID-19 pandemic, in an online format.[1] On December 8, 2021, Harris died days before his 92nd birthday from complications of COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic in New Jersey.[1]

Jazz Cultural Theater[edit source]

Larry Ridley, Barry Harris, Jim Harrison, and Frank Fuentes were partners in creating the Jazz Cultural Theater beginning 1982.[13] 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 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, 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 source]

  • 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[14][15]
  • 1989 NEA Jazz Master

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