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Photo credits (c)


Irene Albar

Tino Gil

Mario Albar

Borja T. Suárez López

Laurent Meyer

Fausto Ferraiuolo

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Dr. Barry Harris



Barry Harris was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 15, 1929, to Melvin Harris and Bessie as the fourth of their five children. Harris took piano lessons from his mother at the age of four. His mother, a church pianist, asked him if he was interested in playing sacred music or jazz. After choosing the latter, he was influenced by Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell. In his teens, he learned bebop largely by ear, mimicking Powell's solos. He described Powell's style as the "epitome" of jazz. He performed for dances in clubs and ballrooms. He lived in Detroit in the 1950s and worked with Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt and Thad Jones, and replaced Junior Mance in Gene Ammons' band. In 1956, he went on a short tour with Max Roach, after Richie Powell, the band's pianist and Bud Powell's younger brother, died in a car accident.

Harris has performed with the Cannonball Adderley 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 in Weehawken, New Jersey, at the home of jazz patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. He replaced Monk during rehearsals at the New York Jazz Repertory Company in 1974. [8]

In Japan, he performed at the Yubin Chokin concert hall in Tokyo for two days and his performances were recorded and collected on an album released by Xanadu Records. Between 1982 and 1987, he conducted 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 the teaching process. He has held music workshop sessions in New York for singers, piano students 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 included in the profile of the film Barry Harris - Spirit of Bebop.

He continued his weekly workshops even during the COVID-19 pandemic, in an online format.

Harris died of complications from COVID-19 at a hospital in North Bergen, New Jersey on December 8, 2021, seven days before his 92nd birthday.

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Complete discography from his official website

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