So the Story Goes: Barry Harris's Never-ending Master Class

Barry Harris: better late than never

News | Jun, 15th 2017

If you get a group of jazz musicians in a room together, it’s only a matter of time until they start sharing stories from the road. In this original series, “So the Story Goes,” we will highlight some of those great stories. (See other entries in this series.)

Since the 1980s, jazz piano legend and educator Barry Harris has been giving weekly master classes to students hoping to learn the vocabulary and traditions that make up jazz. Even at 87 years old, he teaches three classes every Tuesday: a piano class at 6:00PM, a vocal class at 7:30PM, and an improvisation class for all instruments that runs from 10:00PM to midnight. It wasn’t by chance, though, that the master class series has lasted as long as it has.

Clearly, he's a master educator:

In a 2002 broadcast of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on NPR, Harris provides some insight into how one of jazz’s longest-running educational workshops came to be.

"Okay, so [The Jazz Coalition] used to have a workshop. And so what happened was, I was supposed to teach the workshop one day—it was the last workshop—and, unfortunately, I went into OTB [Off Track Betting] to play the horses.

"And so I got there [to OTB] and, I tell you, what happened was this: I was supposed to be there at four o’ clock and at seven o’ clock, I suddenly said, ‘I'm supposed to teach at four!’ So I went out and jumped in a cab... Here I go running to the place, I get there, you know, everybody was sitting there waiting on me… three hours later! So I saidand this was the last day of the class—I said, ‘Here’s what we’ll do. We’re gonna continue having this class forever.' I say, 'All you gotta do is bring enough money just to pay the rentI don’t want anythingjust everybody bring a few dollars. We’ll pay the rent. And we’ll keep the class going.’

"That’s how the class started."

Listen to the full episode and catch Barry Harris and his trio—made up of bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Leroy Williams—play 7:30 and 9:30 sets from Friday June 16th through Sunday June 18th at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

Can’t make it to the club? You can stream both sets on Sunday, June 18th right here:

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