[JPL] Jazz Great Barry Harris Passes On Love Of Music To New Generation

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Thu Oct 18 07:41:07 EDT 2007


NY1 News
Oct 18, 2007 
Weather: Mild. Sun and Clouds.High 76
Top News € NY1 Living
Jazz Great Barry Harris Passes On Love Of Music To New Generation
October 17, 2007

He's a jazz legend who hits all the right notes. Barry Harris is helping to
introduce a new generation of musicians to the tricks of his trade, and he
has quite a bit to say about the state of music education in the city.

NY1¹s Dean Meminger sits in for a session as NY1 takes an in-depth look at
the city's Jazz Scene.

It's a Tuesday, 'round midnight, and the joint is jumping inside the Lincoln
Square Neighborhood Community Center. Leading it all is jazz great Barry

Although it appears to be a jam session, it's actually a jazz class. Harris
has been giving lessons like this for more than 30 years. In fact the jazz
man, who is 77 years young, is world-renown as a teacher. He says he's been
teaching the piano to others since he was 14 in his hometown of Detroit.

³Back in those days, man, what else did you have in your house but a piano?
There was no television,² says Harris.

Music was Harris' recreation, because he wasn't athletic like others boys.

"I was a little scrawny, puny little cat. Couldn't play baseball, couldn¹t
play basketball, couldn¹t play football. So I was the kind of cat, so what
did I do? I would go home and sit at my piano,² says Harris.

Sitting at that piano paid off at a young age. Masters of the bebop style
quickly embraced Harris and his skills.

"I had more fun when I was younger, Œcause see when I was young, I would go
to these dances and sit in with Charlie Parker and sit in with Gene Ammons,²
says Harris. 

Although he loved the Motor City, eventually his music would bring him to
New York and then all over the world performing the bebop he loves.

"Sony Rollins, Donald Byrd and myself, we joined Max Roach and the bass
player George Morrow. I stayed there a little while and then I came back to
Detroit and then I joined Cannonball. But in Detroit I played with Miles,
because he came to Detroit and played for a while."

But eventually his music would take him back to the New York area, and then
all over the world performing the bebop he loves.

"I went to one town in Japan and people had on Barry Harris t-shirts,² says
Harris. ³That could never happen in the United States.²

That¹s a sour note for Harris and many other jazz artists. Over the years
they have been appreciated more in Europe and Asia than at home.

"New York probably has warehouses all around with instruments rotting,
because they have taken music out of the schools. This is ridiculous," says

That¹s why Harris has dedicated his life to teaching and he realizes he is
one of the last of the Jazz greats from his generation.

"Why should I die and not pass on the knowledge? So I have to pass the
knowledge on,² says Harris.

­ Dean Meminger 

Programming note: Join NY1 for an in-depth look at the city's jazz scene
when "Jazz Lives Here" debuts this Friday night. There will also be encores
on Saturday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., and again Sunday at 6 p.m.
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