Harris, Beaver [William Godvin] (Pittsburgh, PA, 20 April 1936 - New York, 22 Dec 1991)

Drummer and bandleader



He played drums from the age of 20. After army service (from 1957), he returned to Pittsburgh, where he played informally with Benny Golson, Slide Hampton, Horace Silver, and others. In 1962 he moved to New York, and became associated with a group of progressive jazz musicians, working with such players as Sonny Rollins (1965), Marion Brown (1966), Albert Ayler (1966-7), Roswell Rudd (from 1966), Gato Barbieri (1969-70), Thelonious Monk (1970), and, most notably, Archie Shepp (from 1967). In 1968, with Grachan Moncur III and Dave Burrell, he formed the cooperative group 360 Degree Music Experience. This group became an important outlet for his playing and composition; it has undergone many changes in personnel, but in the late 1970s and 1980s frequently included the steel drummer Francis Haynes, Ken McIntyre, Hamiet Bluiett, Ricky Ford, Cameron Brown, Rahn Burton, and occasionally Don Pullen (as co-leader). Cecil Taylor was among the other musicians with whom Harris played in the 1970s; he also accompanied Chet Baker, Charlie Rouse, Al Cohn, and others at St. James Infirmary, a club in New York owned by Rudd and Hod O'Brien.


Although Harris made his name as a free-jazz player, his style is firmly based on swing rhythms. The full range of his abilities became apparent in the 1970s in his work with Shepp and 360 Degree Music Experience; in these contexts he uses a variety of rhythmic idioms and sometimes plays with a freer pulse. His splash-cymbal work is especially impressive.

Selected Recordings


 As leader of 360 Degree Music Experience: From Ragtime to No Time (1975, 360 Degree Music 2001); with D. Burrell: In: Sanity (1976, Black Saint 0006-7); Negcaumongus (1979, Cad. 1003); with D. Pullen: A Well Kept Secret (1980, Shemp 2701)

 As sideman: Marion Brown: Three for Shepp (1966, Impulse! 9139); A. Ayler: Albert Ayler Live in Greenwich Village (1966-7, Impulse! 9155); A. Shepp: Archie Shepp Live at the Donaueschingen Music Festival (1967, Saba 15148); G. Barbieri: The Third World(1969, Flying Dutchman 10117); R. Rudd: Numatik Swing Band (1973, JCOA 1007); A. Shepp: U-jaama (unité) (1975, Uniteledis 22975YX2); S. Lacy: Trickles (1976, Black Saint 0008)



 B. Case: "Beaver's Base," Melody Maker, liv (6 Oct 1979), 57

 L. S. Freeman: "The 360° of Beaver Harris," Jazz Spotlite News, i/5 (1980), 8

 K. Steiner: "The 360° Music Experience," Coda, no.175 (1980), 10

 B. Rusch: "Beaver Harris: Stories," Cadence, ix (1983), no.2, p.5; no.3, p.12; no.4, p.19

 Ed Hazell

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, © Macmillan Reference Ltd 1988




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1.         360 Degree Music Experience

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz

2.         Hazell, Ed

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz

adjacent entries

Harriott, Joe (Arthurlin) (Kingston, Jamaica, 15 July 1928 - London, 2 Jan 1973)


Harris, Barry (Doyle) (Detroit, 15 Dec 1929)

Harris, Beaver [William Godvin] (Pittsburgh, PA, 20 April 1936 - New York, 22 Dec 1991)

Harris, Bill [Willard Palmer] (i) (Philadelphia, 28 Oct 1916 - Hallandale, FL, 21 Aug 1973)

Harris, Bill [Willie] (ii) (Nashville, NC, 14 April 1925 - Washington, DC, 6 Dec 1988)

Harris, Charlie [Charles Purvis] (Alexandria, VA, 9 Jan 1916)


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