Harris, Little Benny [Benny, Benjamin Michel] (New York, 23 April 1919 - San Francisco, 11 Feb 1975)


Trumpeter and composer


He was a self-taught musician. In the mid-1930s he played with Thelonious Monk and later took part in early bop jam sessions with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker (it is said that he convinced Gillespie of Parker's ability by playing one of the latter's improvisations). Gillespie obtained work for Harris with Tiny Bradshaw (1939) and Earl Hines (1941, 1943), and he also played intermittently during the 1940s with Benny Carter, Pete Brown, John Kirby, Herbie Fields, Coleman Hawkins, and Monk, as well as with Boyd Raeburn (1944-5). His compositions include Little Benny (later recorded by Parker as Craze-ology and by Bud Powell as Bud's Bubble), Lion's Den, and the standard riff on Perdido; it is also probable that he wrote Ornithology in collaboration with Parker. Following brief periods in Gillespie's band, around 1952 Harris ceased to be active as a musician; he moved to California, first to Sacramento and then to San Francisco, where he was interviewed in 1961. As a performer he was not of the stature of his colleagues, but he played an important role in the development of bop and as a composer of a few tunes that have become jazz standards.


 Steven Strunk


The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Macmillan Reference Ltd 1988