Benny Carter: Symphony of Riffs
This intimate portrait of modern jazz pianist Barry Harris becomes an historic walk with some of the best known jazz musicians of the 1950s and 160s. Memorable scenes span from archival footage of Harris playing at his piano, to more recent reminiscing about his circle of friends and influences, such as Charlie "Bird" Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Dubbed the "key conservator" of bebop music by Gary Giddins, jazz critic for The Village Voice, Harris shares with us his heartfelt music, insights into his personal style of playing and his far-reaching love of teaching. Checkerboard has created a lively picture of a musician and teacher who has worked hard, often in the face of prevailing musical trends, to keep the spirit of bebop alive. Through his playing, composing, bandleading and teaching, Harris has touched the lives of many. During the film, we see Harris on many levels. In one scene, his playfulness surfaces as he composes a new work. During a gig at the Village Vanguard in New York City, he banters with the small audience and plays soulfully with his trio. Later in the film, we see him tackling an orchestral and choral work at a concert. Highlights include many of Harris1 students, of all ages and nationalities, sharing stories about this beloved musician as a teacher and mentor. Harris retains his unflappable good humor throughout this 55-minute documentation of one of the worlds living legends of jazz.