A short biography:

             Born in 1933 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Gene Harris arose as an icon for jazz music throughout the United States through a lifetime career in the music industry. Having performed in the US Army Band during the Korean War, Gene took his experience, and along with two fellow musicians, formed a trio that came to define jazz music to many fans. Harris and his two fellow musicians, Andy Simpkins and Bill dowdy, named themselves The Three Sounds, a group that defined the face of Soul-Jazz.[1] In the mid-1970s, Harris semi-retired to Boise, Idaho and this time, Harris regularly performed at the Idanha Hotel. This semi-retirement represented Harris’s answer to frustrations currently within his life, including becoming completely burned out by the music industry.[2] So much, that Harris tore up his contract with United Artist.

              Before he chose Boise as his place of retirement, Harris gave himself two choices, Minneapolis-St. Paul or Boise, having spent time in both cities. He chose Boise for two reasons, it was the smaller of the two and the small town vibe of the city gave Harris an experience he had not felt since his childhood in Benton Harbor.[3] In the early 1980s, Harris would once again take up his instrument eventually resulting in him leading an all-star big band on world tour on the request of Andrew Whist, then president of the Phillip Morris Jazz Grant. Unfortunately, on January 16, 2000, Harris died in Boise, Idaho of Kidney failure. He was awaiting a kidney transplant from his daughter. Upon his death Former Governor Phil Batt said,

“The first time I heard him play, I thought he had another piano player hidden in the background. I didn’t think one man could play that much music. It inspired me to start playing the clarinet again. Gene was a world class talent and a warm, wonderful person who went out of his way to make people feel good. Idaho is a lesser place without him.”[4]


Legacy left behind:

             Though Harris died in 2000, he left behind a legacy that has touched many people since his death. In 1996, Harris led a large group of educators, musicians, and business leaders on making a commitment to the Treasure Valley community by forming the Gene Harris Endowment. Two years later, this same group formed the Gene Harris Jazz Festival. The Gene Harris Endowment not only provides scholarships to aspiring jazz musicians attending Boise State University, but brings these aspiring musicians together with established professionals such as Dave Bruceck and Arturo Sandoval.[5]



  [1] Michael C. Bailey, “Building a Jazz Library: Gene Harris,” Last modified February 2013, http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=18639.

 [2] Janie Harris and Bob Evancho, Elegant SOUL: the life and music of Gene Harris (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2005), 98.

 [3] Harris, 99.                             

 [4] Tim Woodward, “Eugene Harris,” Last modified 2013, http://elvispelvis.com/geneharris.htm.

 [5] Burroughs Group, “About the Gene Harris Jazz Festival,” Last modified 2010, http://www.geneharris.org/festival-info/about-the-festival.



Work Cited:

 Bailey, Michael C. “Building a Jazz Library: Gene Harris.” Last modified February 2013.


Burroughs Group. “About the Gene Harris Jazz Festival.” Last modified 2010.


 Harris, Janie and Bob Evancho. Elegant SOUL: the life and music of Gene Harris. Caldwell,

            Idaho: Caxton Press, 2005.

 Woodward, Tim. “Eugene Harris.” Last modified 2013. http://elvispelvis.com/geneharris.htm.