Barry Harris

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Barry Harris
Background information
Birth nameBarry Doyle Harris
Born(1929-12-15) December 15, 1929 (age 82)
OriginDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
GenresBop
Hard bop
Mainstream jazz
OccupationsPianist, Educator
InstrumentsPiano
LabelsPrestige Records
Riverside Records
Xanadu Records
Associated actsCannonball Adderley, Illinois Jacquet, Coleman Hawkins, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach
 
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For the dance music performer and DJ, see Barry Harris (DJ).
Barry Harris
Background information
Birth nameBarry Doyle Harris
Born(1929-12-15) December 15, 1929 (age 82)
OriginDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
GenresBop
Hard bop
Mainstream jazz
OccupationsPianist, Educator
InstrumentsPiano
LabelsPrestige Records
Riverside Records
Xanadu Records
Associated actsCannonball Adderley, Illinois Jacquet, Coleman Hawkins, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach

Barry Doyle Harris (born Detroit, Michigan, December 15, 1929) is an American bebop jazz pianist and educator.

Contents

Biography

Harris left Detroit for New York City in 1960. Influenced also by Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk, Harris's playing is noted for its similarity to Bud Powell.[citation needed]

Harris has played with Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt, Illinois Jacquet, Coleman Hawkins, Dexter Gordon, Charles McPherson and Max Roach. He has recorded 19 albums as a lead artist, and is a recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

During the 1970s, Harris lived with Monk and his family at the Weehawken, New Jersey home of the jazz patroness Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, and so was in an excellent position to comment on the last years of his fellow pianist.[1]

Harris appears in the 1989 documentary film Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (produced by Clint Eastwood), performing duets with Tommy Flanagan.

Since 1991, Barry Harris has collaborated with Toronto-based pianist and teacher Howard Rees in creating a series of videos and workbooks documenting his unique harmonic and improvisational systems and teaching process.

In 2000, he was profiled in the film Barry Harris - Spirit of Bebop.

Barry Harris continues to perform and teach worldwide. When he is not traveling, he holds weekly music workshop sessions in New York City for vocalists, students of piano and other instruments.

Jazz Cultural Theater

For five years, August 14, 1982, to August 14, 1987, Harris maintained a unique institution, the Jazz Cultural Theater (JCT), at 368 Eighth Avenue, a storefront between 28th and 29th streets in Manhattan. Primarily a performance venue, featuring "name" jazz artists on weekends, and a weekly jam session, it was known for Barry's music classes on other nights: vocalists and instrumentalists each taught in separate sessions. Several artists recorded at the club, including Barry's own album For the Moment. Some of the many musicians and notable jazz figures that appeared at the JCT were Jack Wilson (piano); Bill Hardman (trumpet); Junior Cook (tenor sax); Tommy Turrentine (trumpet); Charles McPherson (alto sax); Mickey Tucker (piano); Peter Leitch (guitar); Clifford Jordan (tenor sax); Mark Elf (guitar); Lou Donaldson (alto sax); Leroy Williams (drums); Vernel Fournier (drums); Hal Dotson (bass); Jamil Nassar (bass); Chris Anderson (piano); Lon Chaney (tap-dancer); Jimmy Slyde (tap-dancer); Francis Paudras (biographer of pianist Bud Powell); and jazz patroness Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter who would park her silver Bentley convertible sports car in front of the club.

Barry's approach to the teaching of jazz uses methods and techniques that pre-date the Berklee school and the Lydian Chromatic approach of George Russell. He relies upon the 6th chord and the 8-note, rather than the 7-note jazz scale, as a basis for melody and harmony. This is the material used by Bud Powell, Joseph Schillinger, George Gershwin, Glenn Miller, and even Frédéric Chopin. He emphasizes the concept of building a repertoire of one's own musical movements over common harmonic formulae.

The Jazz Cultural Theater (JCT) enjoyed a vibrant five-year run, and while its storefront existence ended in 1987 when its lease ran out and rent increased, Barry simply moved his jazz instrumental and vocal classes to other venues in New York City, and in Europe, supported by a devoted and ever growing international base of students, many of whom are now professionals, among them Israeli-born, now New York City-based jazz guitarist, Roni Ben Hur, and Italian-born brothers Luigi Grasso (alto sax) and Pasquale Grasso (guitar).

An advertisement appearing in the local Village Voice newspaper announced the last week of JCT performances:

Thursday, August 6, 1987: Haze Laser & Sextet featuring C-Sharpe
Friday-Saturday August 7 & 8, 1987: Charles McPherson with the Barry Harris Trio
Sunday, August 9, 1987: a vocal concert for Victor Lane
Wednesday, August 12, 1987: The Last Big Bash at the Jazz Cultural Theater

Theoretical Concepts

Barry Harris’ approach to jazz harmony relies heavily on the diminished chord and its relationship to the twelve keys. Utilizing the diminished chord, he has formulated scales which allow pianists and guitar players greater freedom in accompaniment, to play, in his own words “movement, not chords.”

His fundamental scale is the major “sixth-diminished” scale, but equally important are the minor sixth to diminished, the dominant seventh to diminished, and the dominant seven flat five to diminished scale. The major sixth-diminished scale is a major scale with an extra note between the 5th and 6th scale degrees. A typical exercise using this scale involves playing a C Major 6th chord, up the scale to a D diminished 7th chord, back to C Major 6th in first inversion, to F diminished 7th ( i.e. D diminished 7th first inversion ), to C Major 6th in second inversion, and so on, up the scale until it reaches the octave. Moving chords up and down the scale in this way gives more possibilities for “movement”, as opposed to playing a static chord when playing jazz standard songs. Extending this concept, Barry relates all chord alterations (flat and sharp 9’s, sharp 11’s, flat 13’s, etc.) to the tritones minor sixth-diminished scale (A Flat Minor Sixth-Diminished for G7), which provides options for “moving” the alterations through the scales.

Discography

As leader

Photo by Brian McMillen

As sideman

With Cannonball Adderley

WWith Charlie Byrd

With Donald Byrd

With Al Cohn

With Sonny Criss

With Art Farmer and Donald Byrd

With Terry Gibbs

With Benny Golson

With Dexter Gordon

With Johnny Griffin

With Coleman Hawkins

With Carmell Jones

With Thad Jones

With Harold Land

With Yusef Lateef

With Earl May

With Billy Mitchell

With Hank Mobley

With Lee Morgan

With Dave Pike

With Sonny Red

With Sonny Stitt

With Don Wilkerson

References

  1. ^ 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."

External links