Joe Harris
Joe Harris

Joe Harris

About Joe Harris

Following a decade as one of the early bebop drummers, Joe Harris took off for Sweden and never came back. His background also included symphonic percussion instruments such as tympani and xylophone. A drummer from his early teens, Harris began working with bebop maestro Dizzy Gillespie in 1946, working when the datebook called for that outfit through 1948. As the grapevine tells it, Harris was canned from the Gillespie band after getting in a tiff with the leader's wife.
Harris balanced jazz with the heavier R&B sounds of tenor saxophonist Arnett Cobb in the late '40s, gigging with singer Billy Eckstine come 1950. The drummer was next associated with both pianist Erroll Garner and Gillespie sidekick James Moody, a saxophonist and flautist, yet basically had a freelance status in Manhattan which included an important house band job at the Apollo Theater.
His first tour of Sweden took place in the summer of 1956 in the company of that country's superb trumpeter Rolf Ericson, the season a good one to show off more appealing climactic aspects of the land. Harris' subsequent expatriate status put him in the company of other transplanted instrumentalists including trumpeter Benny Bailey and pianist Freddie Redd -- and as for offstage company, he married a nice Swedish girl. Harris is attributed with a pair of contrasting quotes arising like vapor out of his long gigging background: "The band that plays together, stays together" and "'Dis band should disband." By the '90s, Harris had returned to his native Pittsburgh, residing in the Manchester neighborhood and performing with locals such as
pianist Frank Cunimondo. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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