Barry Doyle Harris (1929 - 2021)

A photo of Barry Doyle Harris
Barry Doyle Harris
1929 - 2021
December 15, 1929
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan United States
December 8, 2021
Weehawken, Hudson County, New Jersey United States 07086
Barry Doyle Harris was born on December 15, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan United States. He died on December 8, 2021 in Weehawken, New Jersey United States at 91 years old.
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Updated: December 10, 2021
Career Barry Doyle Harris was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 15, 1929. Harris began learning the piano at the age of four. 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. 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. He was based in Detroit through the 1950s and worked with Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, and Thad Jones, and substituted for Junior Mance in the Gene Ammons band. In 1956, he toured briefly with Max Roach, after Richie Powell, the band's pianist and younger brother of Bud Powell, died in a car crash. Harris performed with Cannonball Adderley's quintet and on television with them. After moving to New York City, he worked as an educator and performed with Dexter Gordon, Illinois Jacquet, Yusef Lateef, and Hank Mobley. Between 1965 and 1969, he worked extensively with Coleman Hawkins at the Village Vanguard. During the 1970s, Harris lived with Monk at the Weehawken, New Jersey home of the jazz patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. He substituted for Monk in rehearsals at the New York Jazz Repertory Company in 1974. 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. From the 1990s onwards, Harris collaborated with Howard Rees on videos and workbooks documenting his harmonic and improvisational systems and teaching process. He held music workshop sessions in New York City for vocalists, students of piano and other instruments. 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. Jazz Cultural Theater Larry Ridley, Barry Harris, Jim Harrison, and Frank Fuentes were partners in creating the Jazz Cultural Theater beginning 1982. 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, 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 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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Barry Doyle Harris
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Barry Doyle Harris
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Barry Harris was born on in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan United States
Barry Harris died on in Weehawken, Hudson County, New Jersey United States 07086
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Discography As leader 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

Personal Life

He Played With Charlie Parker. For $15 He’ll Play With You Barry Harris has been offering a weekly jazz workshop since the 1970s. Everybody’s welcome, but they’d better love bebop. For 46 years, students have crowded around Dr. Barry Harris for his weekly jazz class. By Sheila McClear March 6, 2020 If you want a spot near the maestro at Barry Harris’s jazz workshop, you’re going to have to fight for it. On a recent Tuesday evening, about 15 minutes before the session was to start, adults of all ages started jostling for the most coveted spot: the seat on the piano next to Dr. Harris, who always plays by example, and always listens. The others clustered around the piano, many with their own keyboards and guitars. Some focused their cellphones on Dr. Harris in order to preserve every bit of the 90-year-old’s wisdom. “Small stuff is what you do best,” said Dr. Harris, who is wiry with snow-white hair and glasses, and who wore a black overcoat and natty plaid scarf that night. “Not big stuff.” The pianist, composer, and teacher — he has four honorary Ph. D.s and so prefers to go by “Dr. Harris” — is the last of his breed: an interpreter of bebop in its purest form. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk — his more famous contemporaries, and his friends, died long ago. And many feel that bebop — a genre that originated in the 1940s, characterized by a fast tempo as well as chord changes that are equally quick and complex — died with them. Dr. Harris’s revered jazz workshop, surely the longest-running in New York City, is proof that bebop lives on. And Dr. Harris is eager to share his knowledge with new generations. “I’m just passing everything along,” he said. “I’m just passing on music.” His collaborators read like a list of the greatest jazz players of the 20th century. Dr. Harris has worked or played with everyone from Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins to Sonny Stitt; he played with Cannonball Adderley, Dexter Gordon, and Yusef Lateef. He sat in with Charlie Parker, his idol. His discography starts in 1958, and his last record was made in 2009. Even though he has been teaching in New York since the 1960s, Dr. Harris put together what he calls the “big class” in 1974. It began by happy accident: Before teaching the final session of a workshop, Dr. Harris recalled, he was out engaging in one of his few vices — he was at an OTB, betting on horses — when he realized he had lost track of time and was hours late. He jumped into a cab. The students were still waiting for him. “So I said, ‘Look here: since you waited for me, I’m going to have a class forever in New York. And it won’t cost you much.’” Dr. Harris’s class takes place every Tuesday night at a rehearsal studio in Midtown. It has three segments: piano from 6 to 8, vocals from 8 to 10, and improvisation for all instruments, from 10 to midnight. Everyone is welcome, and the website notes that you don’t even know how to play piano to attend. Six hours of jazz instruction for $15. Sign up for the New York Today Newsletter Each morning, get the latest on New York businesses, arts, sports, dining, style and more. Get it sent to your inbox. “It’s the most beautiful thing you want to hear in your life,” Dr. Harris said of the sound of a musician whose skills improve after working with him. Originally from Detroit, where he started teaching at age 15 out of his mother’s house, Dr. Harris moved to New York in 1960. He soon became friends with the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a Rothschild scion and jazz patron, who invited him to move into her modern-style house, which had stunning views of the Hudson River, in Weehawken, N.J. And a hundred cats. Thelonious Monk joined him around 1972, dubbing it the “Cat House” and staying until his death 10 years later. Dr. Harris still lives there today. The baroness died in 1988, and she made arrangements so that Dr. Harris could live there as long as he wanted. These days, Dr. Harris’s friends drive him into the city for gigs and for the workshop. The students — who range in age from 20 to 60 and vary widely in experience and ability — sit or stand as close to Dr. Harris as they can, watching intently. The effect is as if he were teaching in a fishbowl. Many have been coming to the workshop for decades. And they know they need to come prepared. “Come on, man, you think a grown man plays like that?” Dr. Harris shot at a man in his 60s wearing business casual and struggling through a piece. To a guy burning through a Cole Porter improvisation, Dr. Harris shouted, “Hit it!” And this is why his students love him. “Barry is one of the most important people in my life,” said Robert Nissim, who has been attending the workshop for 27 years. The teacher, he said, “is on a passionate search for beauty, and this he demands from his students.” Isaac Raz, who has studied with Mr. Harris for eight years, likes the “chaotic nature” of the class. “I thought I knew everything,” he said, referring to his background at Berklee College of Music. “He’s pulling lessons out of his head. You have to be at the top of it to keep up.” Michael Weiss, a pianist and composer, checks into class “maybe once every two years,” he said. When Mr. Weiss was 20, Dr. Harris offered him a piano lesson. They have been friends and colleagues now for 40 years. In the past, they’ve even exchanged musical ideas over the telephone. “Barry would call me and say: ‘Now just play me an F-major triad in the first inversion, now take it up to C, and move it up a half-step.’” While Dr. Harris sat in a rehearsal room before that night’s workshop, he recited the names of bebop musicians as if he were repeating the Rosary. “We believe in Bird, Dizz, Bud. We believe in Art Tatum. We believe in Cole Hawkins,” he said quietly. “These are the people we believe in. Nothing has swayed us.” It was well after midnight when Mr. Harris left the building, surrounded by students trying to get one more word in and say a final goodbye. One young woman was so nervous that he grasped her wrists with both hands. “You’re shaking!” he said. Mr. Harris said he felt secure in the knowledge that the people who need to know about his legacy, do. “Most of the musicians know,” he said. “The real musicians, they know. The piano players know. We even got church piano players,” he said, heading for his ride that would take him back to Weehawken. “’Cause they know.”

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Barry Harris, a pianist who carefully preserved the language of bebop throughout a seven-decade career as a brilliant performer and influential teacher, died Wednesday at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, N.J. He was 91 and lived in Weehawken, N.J. Harris had been hospitalized for the last two weeks and died of complications due to Covid, said Kira von Ostenfeld-Suske, who was part of a small support team of friends and students that helped Harris in recent years. Harris would have turned 92 next week and taught his last class, via Zoom, on Nov. 20. One of the leading musicians to emerge from Detroit's modern jazz explosion in the 1940s and '50s, Harris remained indefatigable into his early 90s. He led weekly workshops in New York, appeared in clubs and concert halls and traveled the world to teach and spread the gospel of bebop — the post-war style that became the lingua franca of the music. Harris channeled the language and spirit of bebop's founding fathers — alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk — through his own foxy wit, vivid harmonic imagination, and distinctive rhythmic rumble. But he was more than a sterling soloist and keeper of the flame. He was a Talmudic scholar of bebop; a beacon of artistic integrity and generosity; and a swinging Socrates, guiding students in a quest for truth, beauty, and the hippest chords to play on "Indiana" and "Embraceable You." At a time when the traditional apprentice system all but collapsed in jazz, Harris represented a direct link to the pantheon. His authority descended from a lifetime of bandstand and recording experience with countless iconic figures. "Barry was revered," said Michael Weiss, one of the many pianists Harris mentored. "He orchestrated his melodies and constructed his improvisations in a lyrical, unhurried, and free-flowing manner. His codification of the bebop language stands apart from most of the trite attempts at jazz theory in the academic world because it goes to the heart of what makes a melody." The essence of Harris's individuality was his storytelling expression, spontaneous flow of melody and harmony, and the intensity of his swing. On romantic ballads, his ear for harmonic color and the eloquent movement of one chord to another lent his performances the lyric glow of a Shelley ode. On "Stay Right With It," a blues recorded in 1962 for his LP Chasin' the Bird, his articulation and inflection are in constant flux as he tears through a dozen choruses filled with coiled triplets, vocalized syncopations, and expansive phrases. Barry Harris On Piano Jazz MARIAN MCPARTLAND'S PIANO JAZZ Barry Harris On Piano Jazz Harris' passion for teaching grew out of an analytical mind and a lifelong quest for knowledge and self-improvement. He put the virtuoso improvisations of Parker, Gillespie and Powell under a microscope, discovering the musical grammar that makes bebop work — scales, chords, chromatic passing tones. He then organized a set of rules that helps musicians play like natives, without an accent. Detroit was one of the most prolific feeders of talent to the national jazz scene at mid-century. The Jones brothers (Hank, Thad, and Elvin), Yusef Lateef, Milt Jackson, Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, and dozens of other future stars emerged from the city. Harris, a precocious sage, played a critical role in priming the pump: he was barely into his 20s when he began leading what became daily colloquia at his home. Among the significant musicians who came up under his tutelage were trumpeter Donald Byrd, bassists Paul Chambers and Doug Watkins, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and saxophonists Pepper Adams, Charles McPherson, and Joe Henderson. Future Motown bassist James Jamerson also studied with Harris, and when John Coltrane was performing in Detroit, he would stop by to see what new angle Harris was exploring. The fundamentals Harris devised in the '50s remained the backbone of his teaching. Aspects of his method eventually seeped into the mainstream of jazz education, though Harris never held a formal position in any academy beyond temporary residencies. His workshops were a fixture in New York beginning in the '70s, including a five-year period from 1982-87 at the Jazz Cultural Theater, which he co-founded. "I must be the dumbest kid in the class because I've been in it the longest, and I'm the biggest thief in the class because I steal from everybody," he once told me. Barry Doyle Harris was born in Detroit on Dec. 15, 1929. He was the fourth of five children born to Melvin and Bessie Harris. His mother, a church pianist, started giving him piano lessons at age 4. One of his later teachers, Gladys Wade Dillard, also taught Tommy Flanagan. Harris played dances in high school, but the turning point came at 17, when he heard a seminal bebop record, Webb City, featuring Powell, saxophonist Sonny Stitt and trumpeter Fats Navarro. Harris learned Powell's scampering solo, note-for-note. He then progressed swiftly, making his first record in 1950 for a small company in Toledo, Ohio. Two years later, Harris recorded with homegrown trombonist Frank Rosolino for the Dee Gee label in Detroit. In 1954 Harris succeeded Flanagan in the house band at the Blue Bird Inn — Pepper Adams and Elvin Jones were also in the group — and backed stars like Miles Davis and Wardell Gray. He later worked around town with Roy Eldridge, Lee Konitz and Lester Young. Harris also sat in with Charlie Parker a few times, when the bebop Prometheus was in town. He toured with drummer Max Roach in the summer of 1956 and made recordings around that time in New York with Thad Jones, Hank Mobley, and Art Farmer. Harris didn't leave Detroit for good until alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley convinced him to go on the road in 1960. Here is some stunning footage of Harris playing with Adderley at the Newport Jazz Festival that summer; the pianist steals the show with his dazzling attack and inexhaustible flow of narrative melody.

1929 - 2021 World Events

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In 1929, in the year that Barry Doyle Harris was born, on March 4th, Herbert Hoover became the 31st President of the United States. Early in his presidency, the October stock market crash - "Black Tuesday" - occurred, which lead to the Great Depression. None of his economic policies were able to make a dent in the Depression. This lead to one term and the election of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt winning the 1933 election in a landslide.

In 1933, Barry was merely 4 years old when on December 5th, the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. The 21st Amendment said "The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed." Alcohol was legal again! It was the only amendment to the Constitution approved for the explicit purpose of repealing a previously existing amendment. South Carolina was the only state to reject the Amendment.

In 1945, by the time he was 16 years old, on January 20th, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in to his fourth term as President of the United States. He died 82 days into his term and his new Vice-President, Harry Truman, became President.

In 1961, he was 32 years old when on May 5th, Navy Cmdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr., made the first manned Project Mercury flight, MR-3, in a spacecraft he named Freedom 7. He was the second man to go into space, the first was Yuri Gagarin - a Soviet cosmonaut.

In 1987, he was 58 years old when was the first time that a criminal in the United States - a serial rapist - was convicted through the use of DNA evidence.

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