Dr. Harris has devoted his life to the advancement of Jazz and in the 1980’s founded the Jazz Cultural Theatre. For the past several decades Dr. Harris has been an exponent of the classic Jazz style that was developed by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Coleman Hawkins.
Harris' earliest musical mentor was his mother who played for church and taught him his first song at the age of 4. This led him studying with different teachers in Detroit. In intermediate school he played clarinet and somehow he heard Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Fats Navarro. This proved to be his real love. Somewhere in the late forties he sat in with Charlie Parker and Gene Ammons at dance halls.
Barry Harris had musicians coming from all over to study with him. To name a few Joe Henderson and Yusef Lateef. John Coltrane came to Barry’s house to see how he was teaching some young students such as Charles McPherson, Lonnie Hillyer, James Jamerson, Paul Chambers and Harry Whitaker.
In the early 50’s he traveled to New York City and recorded with Benny Golson, Thad Jones, Carmell Jones and others. Later he went to Chicago and
Photo by Sue Yuen, Beh
recorded with Sonny Stitt and then he played with Miles Davis in Detroit. He joined Max Roach band in 1956. He went back to Detroit and then in 1960 join Cannonball Addeley’s band. Barry also recorded with Dexter Gordon, played with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.
For the past several decades Barry Harris is considered to be the foremost interpreter and an exponent of the classic bebop jazz style, traveling the world over as an Ambassador of Jazz.
He continued the tradition and devotion for the advancement of Jazz throughout his life and in the 1980s founded the Jazz Cultural Theatre. He has also presented and produce annual concerts at venues like Symphony Space and the Manhattan Center in New York.
Barry Harris has received the Living Jazz Legacy award from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Association, and an American Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the recipient of Honorary Doctorate degrees from Northwestern University, Lewis College of Business and the Manhattan School of Music. In addition, he received the Manhattan Borough President Award for Excellence. This award was given for recognition of his devoted public service and in honor of excellence in the field of music. He received the 1999 Mentor award for his work with youngsters at the Manhattan Country School in NYC.