20 October 1936, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 5 November 1996, Los Angeles, California, USA. Harris apprenticeship was served with Gene Ammons before army service took to him to Europe. He had a surprise hit in 1961 with an arrangement of Ernest Golds Exodus theme, and followed with three further hit records (in the USA) over the next decade, the most notable being Listen Here in 1968. He was a daring tenor saxophone innovator, experimenting with the range of sounds that could be produced by sending a signal through an electrical effects box. At the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival he shocked audiences with his trumpet and trombone played through saxophone mouthpieces, before leaving jazz in the early 70s to play in a rock context with Steve Winwood and Jeff Beck. During this period he also recorded stand-up comedy albums.
Because of his work outside the jazz field Harris was often overlooked by the cognoscenti. His work as a theme composer tended to err on the dull side, notably the background music for The Cosby Show. In the early 90s he returned to a more authentic hard bop style, but still played on altered instruments. In his later years he produced some fine work with John Scofield and reunited with Les McCann, with whom he worked in the early 60s.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.