Barry Harris Credit: courtesy the artist

Our living links to the golden age of hard bop have seriously dwindled over the last couple of decades, making the continued vitality and drive of Detroit-bred pianist Barry Harris, 87, all the more special. As a performer and educator he’s championed the music on which he cut his teeth—and now with so few of his colleagues remaining, a sound that might’ve seemed old-fashioned has become invaluable. Before relocating to New York in the mid-50s he was a busy pickup player for touring heavies, supporting the likes of Miles Davis with a rhythmic thrust that he learned from a rigorous absorption of recordings by Bud Powell, an influence that shaped his vaunted career. His skills led to a string of important work, none more meaningful than his strong presence in bands led by Cannonball Adderley (he also worked with Dexter Gordon, Yusef Lateef, and Hank Mobley, among others). Starting in the early 60s, he launched fruitful relationships with Riverside and Prestige Records, which released a slew of strong mainstream efforts under his leadership. Though his pace as a recording artist slowed long ago, he continues to perform, imparting wisdom with every sequence of notes he plays.   v