Remembering Barry Harris

December 15, 1929 – December 8, 2021


A tribute to the bop pianist and educator

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Pianist Barry Harris passed away on Dec. 8, 2021 a week short of his 92nd birthday.

Harris was born Dec. 15, 1929 in Detroit where he started playing piano when he was four.

Harris began a lifelong love of bebop as a teenager, learning the style by ear and becoming an expert at playing the music and in the styles of Bud Powell, Tadd Dameron, and Thelonious Monk.

He was a major part of the Detroit jazz scene in the 1950s, becoming part of the rich Detroit jazz piano legacy of Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, and Sir Roland Hanna.

After moving to New York, Harris was in constant demand, working with Max Roach, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Dexter Gordon, Yusef Lateef, Hank Mobley and Coleman Hawkins among others.

In addition to the players mentioned in the last paragraph, he recorded along the way with such notables as Frank Rosolino (making his recording debut in 1952), Thad Jones, Donald Byrd, Sonny Stitt, Harold Land, Johnny Griffin, Lee Morgan (it is his piano that one hears on Morgan’s “The Sidewinder”), Illinois Jacquet, Charles McPherson, and Red Rodney.

He led at least 25 albums of his own starting in 1958, and was really heard in prime form on his numerous recordings for the Xanadu label in the 1970s.

Always a beloved teacher, Harris became increasingly influential through the years, leading the Jazz Cultural Workshop in the 1980s and conducting a countless number of workshops and seminars since then, not only teaching pianists but singers and horn players the intricacies of bebop; he was active up until the end of his long and productive life.

Barry Harris is featured on “Like Someone In Love” from a concert in Japan with bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Grady Tate.

-Scott Yanow


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