John Harmon | Show Song List

(Show originally recorded Sept. 20, 2005)
John Harmon from a publicity photo John Harmon was born in 1935 in Oshkosh, Wisc. He began the piano with his mother, who played mostly by ear. She taught John the basics and they harmonized 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 Appleton, Wisc., 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 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 the 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 as well. While Harmon considers himself a jazz pianist, the style and orchestration of his numerous compositions are 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.

Check out this week's Piano Jazz Shorts: the Piano Jazz podcast.

Set List for John Harmon on Piano Jazz:
  • "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)