A Conversation with Jerome Harris
In coordination with Dr. Stucky's "Music of the African Diaspora" class we are delighted to facilitate a conversation with ground-breaking jazz musician Jerome Harris. This is part of Mr. Harris' residency which will also include a free performance on December 2nd at 7:30 P.M. in the Pillsbury Theatre, 560 Music Center. Learn more about that performance here.
About Jerome Harris:
Jerome Harris is widely recognized as a unique musical stylist, garnering international acclaim for his incisive and versatile voice on both guitar and bass guitar.
Jerome’s first major professional work was as bass guitarist for the iconic jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins, starting in 1978; from 1988 to 1994 he was Rollins’ guitarist, and appears on seven of his albums. Harris has also recorded and/or performed live on six continents with Jack DeJohnette, David Krakauer, Amina Claudine Myers, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Martha Redbone, Julius Hemphill, Ray Anderson, Leni Stern, David Amram, Don Byron, Bobby Previte, Oliver Lake, Bob Stewart, George Russell, and Roy Nathanson.
Harris’s extensive international travel includes numerous stints in Japan with Sonny Rollins, as well as tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department: to six southeastern African countries with saxophonist Sam Newsome and guitarist Marvin Sewell, to India and southeast Asia with flutist Jamie Baum and guitarist Kenny Wessel, to India and several Middle Eastern countries with vibraphonist Jay Hoggard’s quintet, and to five African nations with saxophonist Oliver Lake’s reggae/jazz/funk band “Jump Up.”
Jerome Harris appears on more than seventy recordings, ranging widely in musical conception while maintaining deep expressive integrity. As bandleader, Rendezvous—the first-ever jazz release by the audio connoisseur magazine Stereophile—captures the drive and grace of his acoustic quintet in gorgeous high-resolution sound. On Hidden in Plain View (New World), Harris’s acoustic bass guitar underpins an all-star group reinterpreting compositions by jazz trailblazer Eric Dolphy. Soma Code, Jerome’s debut as a bandleader, highlights his evocative guitar playing in the context of his inventive compositions for acoustic and electric instruments.
Among Harris’s recordings as featured sideman are Paul Motian Band’s Garden Of Eden (ECM), Abraham Inc.’s Together We Stand (Table Pounding/Label Bleu), Roy Nathanson Sotto Voce’s Complicated Day (Enja), Jack DeJohnette’s Oneness (ECM), Don Byron’s A Fine Line: Arias and Lieder (Blue Note), Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble’s A Trumpet In The Morning (New World), Ray Anderson Lapis Lazuli Band’s Funkorific (Enja) and Ned Rothenberg Sync’s Inner Diaspora (Tzadik), Harbinger (Animul), and Port of Entry (Intuition). Each showcases Jerome’s expressive range, command of style nuances, and creativity. Harris served as arranger, rhythm guitarist and assistant to musical director Vernon Reid in the 1999 Joni’s Jazz tribute concert staged in New York’s Central Park–with Joni Mitchell herself in attendance–accompanying singers as diverse in style as Chaka Khan, Jane Siberry, Duncan Sheik and P.M. Dawn. Other Harris credits include a Broadway stint as guitarist in the South African R&B/rock musical Kat and the Kings, as well as work on industrial, commercial and film score dates.
Jerome Harris has taught at Hampshire College, William Paterson University, Lehman College (City University of New York), and the Alternative Guitar Summit Summer Camp. His published writings include the essays “Considering Jaki Byard” (Sound American SA22, Anthology of Recorded Music, Inc.) and “Jazz on the Global Stage,” in the anthology The African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective, edited by Ingrid Monson (Routledge). In this study, he offers an insider’s view of the history, present state and future implications of the spread and flourishing of jazz in locales far from its African-American birthplace.
Harris conceived and organized “Living Time”: George Russell’s Musical Life and Legacy, an in-depth examination of the career of legendary composer/bandleader/theorist/educator George Russell (1923-2009). While Russell’s innovative music, challenging ideas and pivotal position in jazz history have been celebrated around the world, he remains somewhat under-recognized in the United States. This colloquium was a major appraisal of Russell’s multi-faceted work and his critical contributions to African American improvisational art music. Panelists included David Baker, Gary Giddins, Cameron Brown, Joe Hunt, Stanton Davis, Marty Ehrlich, Ken Schaphorst, Ben Schwendener, and Russell biographer Duncan Heining; professors Ingrid Monson of Harvard and John Howland of Rutgers served as panel moderators. This event was presented by the New England Conservatory of Music as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of its jazz studies program, the first fully accredited jazz program at a music conservatory (George Russell taught at NEC from 1969 to 2004).
Since 2020, Jerome Harris has been an active member of Music Workers Alliance, an American advocacy and activism organization dedicated to empowering music performers, creators, DJs and sound engineers. MWA develops and promotes beneficial corporate practices and governmental policies at federal, state and local levels; it seeks to ensure that Americans working in live venues, recorded music settings and the digital domain—including women, people of color, and others underrepresented in the industry—are educated about fair working conditions and benefits, and how to achieve them. Music Workers Alliance informs creators about their right to control and profit from their creations. It conducts survey research about music workers, and mounts campaigns to educate elected officials and the public about the contributions and needs of our sector of America’s performing arts enterprise. Through collective action, Music Workers Alliance strives to foster a culture where music is valued financially and culturally, and where music workers benefit and achieve dignity in our lives.
Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Jerome began his instrument studies on accordion, then played violin in a middle-school orchestra. Initially self-taught on guitar and bass guitar, as a teenager he immersed himself in a broad range of music—rock, pop, blues, country, gospel, folk and R&B—as both fan and player. After earning a B.A. in psychology and social relations at Harvard College in 1973, Harris attended New England Conservatory of Music as a scholarship student in jazz guitar, graduating with honors in 1977.
Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity
& Center for the Humanities