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Craig Harris, Trombonist/Composer
When Craig Harris exploded onto the jazz scene in 1976, he brought the entire history of the jazz trombone—from the growling gutbucket intensity of early New Orleans music through the refined, articulate improvisation of the modern era set forth by J.J. Johnson, into the confrontational expressionism of the '60s avant-garde. Yet the contemporary music world quickly realized that his talents went far beyond his superb skills as a trombonist. While he performed with a veritable Who's Who of progressive jazz, including Sun Ra, Sam Rivers, Lester Bowie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Jaki Byard, Cecil Taylor, Muhal Richard Abrams, and so on, his own projects displayed both a unique sense of concept and a total command of the sweeping expanse of African-American musical expression.
Those two qualities that have dominated Craig's past two decades of activity, bringing him far beyond the confines of the jazz world and into the sphere of multimedia and performance art as composer, performer, conceptualist, curator and artistic director.
During this Harlem Speaks discussion, Harris ventured forth on his life and career, especially as it intersects with Harlem, where he has lived since 1976.
"I used to visit Harlem a lot before moving here. I went to Paris in July 1976 and returned in October 76. I walked the street with Sun Ra back then. I worked in Aaron Davis Hall. I did a piece entitled 'Brown Butterfly,' based on the physiology of Muhammad Ali, which included seven dancers and seven musicians," said Harris, who more recently composed a long-form composition on Harlem called the TriHarLenium. "I sought to capture the beauty, history and culture of a people who have always been originators. Harlem is currently undergoing gentrification and transition so I wanted to share its history through my TriHarLenium composition with Harlem's people."