Barry Harris

One of the main exponents of bebop, Barry Harris (b. 1929) has been a major bop pianist for decades, inspired by Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Tadd Dameron.

Harris was born and raised in Detroit. He began playing piano when he was four and, by the time he was a late teenager, he was a significant part of the Detroit jazz scene. As the house pianist at the Blue Bird Club starting in 1954, Harris had an opportunity to play with the top visiting jazz players. Reluctant to move to New York, Harris stayed in Detroit until 1960.

Barry Harris was with Riverside during 1960-1962, recording four albums as a leader. At the Jazz Workshop teams the pianist with bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes during the brief period that Harris was a member of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. At 30, his boppish style was fully formed and it would be virtually unchanged up to the present time. Preminado has Harris performing with bassist Joe Benjamin and drummer Elvin Jones. Listen to Barry Harris is a set of unaccompanied piano solos; Newer Than New finds Harris leading a young quintet that features trumpeter Lonnie Hillyer and altoist Charles McPherson; and Chasin’ the Bird is a trio outing with bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Clifford Jarvis.

Harris’s next dates as a leader were cut for Prestige during 1967-1969. Despite the passing of time and the influence of hard bop on the horn players, Harris effectively sticks to bebop on Luminescence, Bull’s Eye, and Magnificent. While the latter is a trio date, the other two albums have such notable sidemen as trombonist Slide Hampton, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, baritonist Pepper Adams, trumpeter Kenny Dorham, and Charles McPherson.

Through the years, Barry Harris has become an influential jazz educator, spreading the message of bebop. Concord’s Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume 12 from 1990 features him playing piano solos in his timeless style, showing that great music really is immortal.