Category: Harris Barry

It’s Barry Harris’ 84th Birthday!

barryHarrisPianist and educator Barry Harris is a true jazz treasure. To celebrate his 84th birthday (ok, two days late), a link to a few interviews posted by Ted Panken for a Downbeat article, one from 1999 and two from 2000. Here is Harris talking about Charlie Parker:

TP:    Any anecdote about when you played with Charlie Parker.

HARRIS:  He was beautiful to us.  I think the best experience that I always tell people is he was playing with strings one time at the Forest Club, which was a roller rink.  It was a dance at this time, and we stood in front, and the strings started, and the most spoiling thing of all was that when he started playing chills just went all through, starting on your toes, and went on through your body, man.  It was everything imaginable.  Orgasms, everything to us.  It’s really a spoiler, because I don’t like to go listen to people because I’m expecting somebody to make me feel like that.

TP:    Did Bird have a huge sound in person?

HARRIS:  Oh yeah.  I remember one time when he was at the Crystal, he was at the back of the room when Lee Konitz had come in and was sitting in with him.  (?)Emperor Nero(?) was playing alto, too.   Bird was over to the side, in the back by the kitchen or something, and Bird just started playing from there.  He had a great big sound.  Gene Ammons used to do that, too.  He’d stand in the back of the Club Valley… Frank Foster, Leo Osbold(?), Billy Mitchell maybe were at the mike playing.  He was up… There was some kind of thing that went up at the top, he started playing — he had a great big sound.  He always let me sit in with him.  When I was very young, he used to make Junior Mance get up and let me sit in with him.  I always loved to see him come to town, because he was one cat really I could sit in with.

Click here to read It’s Barry Harris’ 84th Birthday!

Smithsonian Oral Histories: Barry Harris 2010

barryHarrisToday another fascinating piece from the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program. Established by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1992, the Program documents more than one hundred senior jazz musicians, performers, relatives, and business associates.  The interviews average six hours in length and cover a wide range of topics including early years, initial involvement in music, generally, and jazz specifically, as well as experiences in the jazz music world, including relationships to musicians. There are usually (but not always) both written transcripts and audio; the transcriptions are complete, the audio are shorter clips from the interviews.

Here is the great pianist Barry Harris in 2010. The full transcript is 36 pages, and in the three audio clips Barry speaks about his ability to write music spontaneously, his view on why Jazz should be as valued as classical, and his experience listening to Charlie Parker. From the interview conducted by Aaron Graves:

See the drag about Nat King Cole was everybody fell in love with the singers. See, all over the world they fell in love with the singers. They didn’t fall in love with the piano playing, which was brilliant. He was a brilliant pianist, you know. So you heard less of the piano playing, and more of the singing, even though we enjoyed the singing, you know, don’t think we didn’t. But it would have been nice to hear the piano a little more – keep going, you know. So we had a lot to listen to, you know, you had all them good musicians to listen to.

Click here to listen to and read Smithsonian Oral Histories: Barry Harris 2010

—Peter Blasevick