When the unmistakable musical influences of Thelonious Monk, Danilo Perez, and Charlie Parker intersect with J.S. Bach, Scott Joplin, and the folkloric rhythms of Cuba, could one possibly conceptualize the celebration that occurs at that intersection? Boston/New York-based jazz pianist, Kevin Harris, plays a distinctive combination of traditional and contemporary music that seeks to explore such a crossroad.
Fred Hersch talks of Kevin as one who “plays and writes with flair and real soul” and Downbeat Magazine writes that “Harris’ compositions deal with themes of strength, love, courage, and self awareness. It’s a heavy task he’s set up for himself, and he meets the challenge gracefully.”
One of the captivating elements of his group is the level of comfort and understanding they have with one another as they dive into passionate music conversations as well as playful exchanges. Both his live performances and his recordings reflect Harris’s determination to capture his audience through thoughtful music interactions and very complex solo sections.
Among his most recent collaborations are: Greg Osby, Jeremy Pelt, Peter Slavov, Francisco Mela, Avishai Cohen, Eddie Gomez, Carlos Averhoff, Richie Barshay, Ben Street, Ralph Peterson, Ralph Bowen, Jason Palmer, Jerry Bergonzi, Cecil McBee, Bob Moses, and Terri Lyne Carrington.
Harris performs at renowned national and international venues –Blue Note (NYC and Milan), Smalls, Scullers, JazzHus Montmartre, Wally’s, to name a few–.
His ensemble has also participated at the Jazz Festivals in Havana, Panama, Copenhagen, Lima, and Boston.
Kevin holds a master’s degree in jazz performance from the New England Conservatory and an undergraduate degree in music education (Morehead State University, KY). At the NEC, he studied with Fred Hersch, Mike Cain, Cecil McBee, George Garzone, and Danilo Perez, and performed with George Russell, Benny Golson and Bob Brookmeyer.
After graduating from the New England Conservatory, Kevin worked at defining himself and his music through partnerships with key musicians and also studying and arranging the music of jazz’s masters such as Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker as well as elaborate classical composers as J.S. Bach and Beethoven. The continuing search for growth and new expression is clearly recognizable in his albums.
With his 4th album as a leader, ‘Museum Vol’ released in 2013, Kevin presents a personal collection of concepts in song form. DownBeat gives it three stars and describes it as “overall smart, lyrical and engrossing”. The Phoenix chooses it as the “Editor’s Pick” and highlights “the tight/loose elasticity, the tension between form and freedom that was the hallmark of so many Miles Davis sessions with Shorter and Herbie Hancock . . . calm and collected, but also loose and full of surprises.” The initial release tour brings the ensemble to Panama, Copenhagen, Lima, Boston, New York, with thriving performances for both new and established fans.
In 2010, Kevin released ‘Chapters’ at Scullers Jazz Club and Blue Note NYC.
This new album is a courageous compilation of complex dialogue and a fearless ambition to continue to explore the world of improvisation. It includes compositions by Kevin and drummer Steve Langone, along with new arrangements of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker.
Listeners of all musical tastes and genres are sure to enjoy!
Kevin has also released two other albums as a leader, ‘Freedom Doxology’, demonstrating his ability to create an energetic interaction using odd meters and advanced harmony, a true treat for any listener. This album also displays kevin’s interest in exploring and arranging Monk and Coltrane’s tunes.
And his very first album, ‘The Butterfly Chronicles’, holds a number of through-composed originals that take listeners through the stories told by the engaging notes played.
Jazztimes magazine says of it ‘Harris possesses a spare style and gentle touch’
His Other Work
Harris is currently on the faculty at Berklee College of Music where he teaches piano, jazz ensembles, summer theory classes, and piano labs; in previous years he has also taught classes at the Boston Arts Academy, and collaborated with the North Eastern University Fusion Art’s Program teaching students from Brazil, India, and South Africa.
Committed to the community and to getting youth involved in music, Kevin has conducted clinics and master classes in both public and private schools throughout the USA, Europe, Panama, and Peru. In 2000 he started five separate band programs with help from “Arts In Progress,” a Boston based arts organization.
Harris thrives on communication. A typical performance/clinic always involves interacting with the audience that in turn inspires a sense of joyful connectedness and community.
“Participation,” he says, “is what keeps our souls alive.”