Bill Harris was one of the few modern trombonists of the 1945-1960 era who was not influenced by J.J. Johnson. A very distinctive player almost from the start with a strong and highly original wit, Harris became a professional musician in 1938, and toured with the big bands of Gene Krupa, Ray McKinley, and Bob Chester. After playing with Benny Goodman (1943-1944) and Charlie Barnet, and guesting on a couple of Eddie Condon's Town Hall concerts, Harris became famous for his work with Woody Herman's First Herd (1944-1946); "Bijou" was a showcase, and the trombonist is heard at his best on Herman's many up-tempo (and often riotous) performances. One of the few First Herd members to also be in the Four Brothers Second Herd (1948-1950), Harris also re-joined Herman a few times during 1956-1959. He co-led a band with Charlie Ventura (1947), teamed up with Chubby Jackson (1953), and was a star with Jazz at the Philharmonic during 1950-1954. During the second half of the 1950s, Harris often collaborated with Flip Phillips, and their band formed the nucleus of Benny Goodman's group in 1959. He mostly retired to Florida, in the 1960s after a spell in Las Vegas, occasionally leading his own groups and playing with Red Norvo. Bill Harris led dates during 1945-1957 for Mercury, EmArcy, Dial, Capitol, Verve, Fantasy, and Mode, usually featuring alumni from the Woody Herman Orchestra.
- by Scott Yanow
All Music Group