[JPL] Rufus Harley, Jazz Bagpiper [RIP]

Jeff Duperon mrjazzjr at sprintmail.com
Thu Aug 3 20:16:41 EDT 2006

Rufus Harley, the world's first jazz bagpipe player and self-proclaimed
international ambassador of freedom, died Monday. He was 70.

The Germantown icon, who in his travels handed out miniature Liberty Bells,
American flags, and copies of the Constitution to just about anybody he met,
died of prostate cancer, friends said.

Dressed in kilts, and playing a balky, droning instrument associated more
with the Celtic tradition than the jazz tradition, Harley cut an unusual
figure when he performed at jazz concerts.

Harley, born in Raleigh, N.C., played saxophone but was moved to the
bagpipes after he saw the Black Watch Scottish Band perform at President
John F. Kennedy's funeral.

His teacher was Dennis Sandole, who taught many Philly jazz notables.

Harley recorded several albums for the Atlantic label in the late 1960s. He
played on records with Sonny Stitt, Herbie Mann, Sonny Rollins and The

Over the last several years, led by his good friend saxophonist Byard
Lancaster, Harley had traveled to France with a few other local musicians to
perform there.

The day before he died, Harley attended the tribute to Philly Joe Jones
concert in Germantown to watch his son, Messiah, play trumpet with the
Chappy Washington Band.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Sharon Baptist Church,
3955 Conshohocken Ave.

Jeff Duperon

mrjazzjr at sprintmail.com

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