Barry Harris

Obituary: Devoted Scholar of Bebop Barry Harris Passes Away at 91. R.I.P.

Barry Harris Remembered by Dawoud Kringle

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021, seven days before what would have been his 92nd birthday, Barry Harris was called home.

It’s difficult to quantify the impact he had on the jazz scene. How do you measure the influence of a man who’d played with Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, Max Roach, Yusef Lateef, Lou Donaldson, Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderly, Coleman Hawkins, Tommy Flannigan, Illinois Jaquette, Bud Powell, Lee Morgan, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker?

What measure can you make of a man who tirelessly strove for decades teaching one of the most difficult and unique musical traditions?

Anyone who attended one of his many classes and workshops knew he could be a tough teacher, He demanded the best from everyone. But he cared so much about the art form of jazz, and the people who play it. He was trying to give something to the world and preserve something beautiful.

I must share a story crossing paths with him (actually I have a few; like the times I walked into his workshop carrying my sitar. The look on his face was priceless).

There was a jazz venue called the University of the Streets. It was located on 7th street & Avenue A, and run by saxophonist Muhammad Sallahudeen and his wife Sadia. After Muhammad died, Sadia held a fundraiser. She called me and asked me if I would perform, and I said I’d be delighted. When I arrived, however, I learned that I was going on AFTER Barry Harris! I said “Oh shit,,,” And I told the audience how nervous I was about following a man of Harris’ great musicianship. Harris smiled; he knew I was paying him a heartfelt compliment. And he deserved no less a gesture of respect.

We were fortunate to have had someone like him in the music world in our lifetime. MFM salutes the memory of Barry Harris.