Flushing Town Hall to celebrate the legacy of late jazz master Barry Harris

flushing town hall
(From l. to r.) Guitarist Roni Ben-Hur, NEA jazz master Sheila Jordan, and bassist Harvie S. will pay tribute to the late Barry Harris at Flushing Town Hall on Friday, Dec. 2. (Photo courtesy of Flushing Town Hall)

Flushing Town Hall will pay tribute to one of the greatest NEA jazz masters with “Songs for Barry Harris,” featuring NEA jazz master Sheila Jordan, bassist Harvie S. and jazz guitarist Roni Ben-Hur, on Friday, Dec. 2, at 8 p.m. 

The trio will perform jazz standards and tunes Barry Harris played throughout his phenomenal career and share unique stories and memories about the outstanding jazz luminary for the anniversary of his passing. Harris, who was an American jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, arranger and educator, died at the age of 91 in December 2021.

Harris first joined Flushing Town Hall’s NEA Jazz Masters series in 2007 alongside Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Tootie Heath and Benny Powell. When, at times, health challenges prevented his participation in subsequent concerts in Flushing Town Hall’s series, he generously invited NEA Jazz Master pianists Jo Anne Brackeen and Kenny Barron to take his place, helping bring more living legends to the institution’s beloved corner of Queens. He was beloved by Flushing Town Hall’s staff and audiences.

Harris gave his final public performance at Flushing Town Hall’s 15th annual NEA Jazz Masters concert just one month prior. 

“The esteemed Barry Harris graced our stage on multiple occasions over the years, and we are honored that he shared his talents with our audiences,” said Ellen Kodadek, executive director of Flushing Town Hall. “Sheila Jordan, Harvie S. and Roni Ben-Hur have all known Master Harris for many years, and I know that they will deliver a fantastic and heart-warming tribute to the great person and musician he was.” 

All three featured performers have a very special connection to the late Harris. 

Jordan grew up in Detroit and knew Harris as a teenager; they remained good friends across the decades. Ben-Hur started out as a student of Harris, later playing in his band and recording some classic albums with him. Harvie S. played with Harris over many years and taught with him in summer programs at the Manhattan School of Music. Audiences can look forward to a very moving and uplifting tribute to the influential Jazz Master.

Raised in poverty in Pennsylvania’s coal-mining country, Jordan began singing as a child, and by the time she was in her early teens, she was working semi-professionally in Detroit clubs. Her first great influence was Charlie Parker. After moving to New York in the early ’50s, she married Parker’s pianist, Duke Jordan, and studied with Lennie Tristano, but it was not until the early ’60s that she made her first recordings. By the late ’70s, jazz audiences had begun to understand her uncompromising style a little more, and her popularity increased. Jazz journalist Scott Yanow describes her as “one of the most consistently creative of all jazz singers.”

Harvie S., award-winning bassist, educator, composer, arranger, and producer, is continually challenging himself and his peers, expanding the borders of musical direction. 

He has performed and recorded with Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Tony Bennett, Ray Baretto and many others. He can be heard on 20 albums as a leader, 15 as a co-leader and over 400 albums as a sideman. Harvie S. was selected as a jazz ambassador for the U.S. and toured throughout Europe and Southeast Asia in this honored capacity. He has been a guest on NPR’s All Things Considered and Fresh Air. Jazz guitarist Ben-Hur has earned a sterling reputation as a musician and educator, renowned for his golden tone, improvisational brilliance, compositional lyricism, and ability to charm peers, students and listeners alike. 

Ben-Hur – born in Israel in 1962 but a longtime American citizen, now based in New Jersey – has released nine albums as leader or co-leader, with Time Out New York calling him “a formidable and consummately lyrical guitarist.” The Star-Ledger of New Jersey summed him up this way: “A deep musician, a storyteller, Ben-Hur works with a warm, glowing sound and has an alluring way of combining engaging notes with supple rhythm.” 

Along with releasing acclaimed educational products – including the instructional DVD “Chordability” and method book “Talk Jazz: Guitar” – Ben-Hur has directed international jazz camps for nearly 15 years. Jazz guitar star Russell Malone got it right when he said: “Everything Roni does is beautiful. He has the magic touch.”

The concert on Dec. 2 begins at 8 p.m. For those unable to attend in person, the performance will also be livestreamed online on YouTube for $10. Tickets are $40 for general admission, $32 for members and $20 for students with ID. Table packages for two with refreshments are available for $130, or $110 for members. 

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit flushingtownhall.org/songs-for-barry-harris

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