Bio

Bill Harris has been playing woodwinds since 1958, after a friend in second grade showed him a clarinet one day after school and he was immediately hooked. He began playing professionally in 1964, at age 14, with local dance bands in Portland, Oregon. He grew up by listening to Sonny Stitt, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Phil Woods, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Oscar Peterson, Art Blakey, Bill Evans, etc., etc. records over and over.

Bill studied music at Portland State University and Berklee College of Music in the 1970s. He has studied improvisation with alto great Charlie Mariano and with Gary Burton, Hal Crook, and others, and classical composition with world-famous Czech composer Tomas Svoboda and with Spanish composer Salvator Brotons.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Bill taught jazz improvisation at Mount Hood Community College (some of his students, including bassists Dan Shulte and Phil Baker, have since become international stars) and in the late 1980s and 1990s he taught music theory at University of Portland and conducted the University of Portland orchestra.

He has been a sideman for Helen Forest, Dick Haymes, Thera Memory’s Creative Jazz Orchestra, Curtis Salgado, Richie Cole, Tom Grant, Mel Brown, Nancy King, jazz legend Dick Berk, and others, and has played with many big bands and small groups including the Chris Conrad Big Band, CT 99 Big Band, and The Art Abrams Swing Machine. During the 1980s he co-led his own quintet, Streamline. He has appeared at the Mt. Hood and Cathedral Park Jazz Festivals, has played in countless pit bands for ice shows, circuses, and Broadways-style shows, and has appeared with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. He currently plays with the Steve Hall Quintet and leads his own quintet and quartet.

“My philosophy as a leader in a jazz setting,” he says, “is simple: I pick tunes I love to play, hire the best players, pay them well, and do my best to provide an environment that encourages everyone to be creative. I want everyone to look good, and I’m totally willing to share the spotlight. Then I just get out of the way and let everyone strut their stuff.”