Oberlin

Lafayette Harris '85 piano


Lafayette Harris is known as the “go to” pianist by other musicians and band leaders and, in the last year, was picked by Quincy Jones to play at actor Robert DeNiro's renewal of his vows, played for both President Bill Clinton at a New York fundraiser and Morocco's King Hassan at a New Year's Eve extravaganza in Marrakech. Along side these events have been an overseas tour schedule as well as his regular appearances at New York's Blue Note, and weekly open mic session that he hosts at the historic Lenox Lounge in Harlem. During this time, he also recorded two new albums, a straight-ahead trio and a contemporary funk-fusion project.

The Baltimore native began playing the piano in church. By his teens, Harris was a regular on the local Top 40 scene, playing in bands that performed current hits of the day. However, Harris preferred jazz and admired musician Eubie Blake. After hearing Blake play Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag, Harris was determined to perfect it. He augmented his live work with hard study, receiving a bachelor's degree at the conservatory. He continued is studies with master pianist Kenny Barron at Rutgers University, where he earned a master's in jazz performance.

He moved to New York, and began working in such well-established clubs as the Blue Note, Sweet Basil, Fat Tuesday's and the Iridium. His performances landed him a record deal with Muse Records and his debut album, Lafayette Is Here. A second Muse recording, Happy Together, starred the Lafayette Harris Trio plus Melba Moore. Harris has traveled to Europe to perform in jazz festivals with Slide Hampton, John Gordon, and vocalist Barbara Morrison. His former teacher Kenny Barron referred him to master drummer Max Roach, which resulted in almost 10 years of touring and collaboration.

His work also has taken him to Broadway, where he was conductor and keyboardist for the shows, Bring In 'Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk, The Full Monty, Ride Down Mt. Morgan, and Kat And The Kings. Recently guitarist Mark Whitfield recruited him to form the group Soul Conversation for Herbie Hancock's label.

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