Washington Post obituary: Barry Harris, bassist and collaborator with Duke Ellington, dies at 91

(2/18) Barry Harris, the preeminent bassist who played a leading role in the development of the jazz world’s neo-bebop style, and in major studio recordings, passed away yesterday at the age of 91. Here is this morning’s obit in the Washington Post:

Harris died Saturday at his home in Silver Spring. He had been admitted to a hospital last month with an infection, said Dorian Bellick, a longtime friend and longtime collaborator who became his business manager when Harris stopped playing music a decade ago.

“I don’t think he could have lived in the studio,” Bellick said. “I think he would have died there.”

Like many bassists, Harris used the balance and width of his instrument to transition into becoming a large-scale player, with a square of height in the bass line allowing him to move more freely into phrases or series of phrases when exploring a chord. He also made up for his lower voice by playing with a larger vibrato.

Early in his career, Harris, a native of New York, performed with Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. But it was his 20-year collaboration with one of jazz’s greatest songwriters, Duke Ellington, that arguably transformed him into one of the most important players in jazz.

Harris recorded 27 jazz compositions with Ellington, including Ellington’s “Once a Day,” “Un Ballo in Maschera” and “What a Wonderful World,” and among his most acclaimed recordings were Ellington’s “The Cougar Blues” and “Jeux d’eau.”

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