John Harmon On Piano Jazz

Set List

  • "No Slate" (Harmon)
  • "Taos Pueblo" (Harmon)
  • "Like Someone in Love" (Burke, Van Heussen)
  • "Threnody" (McPartland)
  • "Touch of Your Lips" (Noble)
  • "Billy Sunday" (Harmon)
  • "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me" (Ellington)
  • "Portrait of John Harmon" (McPartland)
  • "How About You" (Freed, Lane)
Josh Harmon (300)

Josh Harmon. Courtesy of Robert Levy hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Robert Levy

John Harmon was born in 1935 in Oshkosh, Wis. He began playing piano at a young age with his mother, who played mostly by ear. She taught him the basics, and the two harmonized tunes together. His exposure to jazz came early, too, thanks in part to his father's extensive collection of jazz records, which included recordings of such greats as Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum.

Harmon graduated from Lawrence University in 1957 with a degree in music composition. The summer after graduation, Harmon attended the first session of the Lenox School of Jazz — the legendary summer program recognized as one of the first educational programs with a jazz curriculum. Harmon studied with Oscar Peterson, whom he credits with improving his playing immensely.

For the next several years, Harmon worked as a pianist and arranger based in New York City. His trio even toured Europe in the early '60s. Harmon eventually found himself back in school, this time at the State University of New York at Buffalo doing graduate work in composition. While there, he also studied with Belgian composer Henri Pousseur.

Harmon returned to Lawrence University in 1971 and founded a jazz-studies program there. He served as the director of that program for the next three years. In 1974, Harmon co-founded a nine-piece band called Matrix. The group's original music, most of it composed and arranged by Harmon, was at the forefront of the jazz-fusion movement and included elements of funk, rock and blues in addition to jazz. The group went on to record five albums over the next seven years.

Following the success of Matrix, Harmon continued to concentrate on performing, teaching occasionally and composing full-time. While Harmon considers himself a jazz pianist, the style and orchestration of his numerous compositions remain varied and diverse.

A widely commissioned composer, Harmon has written music for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, "The Orchestra" of Los Angeles, the Fox Valley Symphony and the Santa Fe Chamber Orchestra. His music contains elements of jazz, as well as Americana and Native American influences.

Originally recorded Sept. 20, 2005.

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