by Megan O'Neil
Harris' numerous plays have had more than 70 productions nationwide, including Stories About the Old Days, starring late jazz singer Abbey Lincoln, and Every Goodbye Ain't Gone, starring Denzel Washington and S. Epatha Merkerson. He’s penned two books of poetry, including Yardbird Suite, Side One: 1920-1940, a "biopoem" about jazz musician Charles "Yardbird" Parker which won the 1997 Naomi Long Magdett Poetry Award.
Harris has often taken a cross-genre approach to the arts, using his literary talents to explore his love of jazz and blues. In his latest book, Birth of a Notion; Or, The Half Ain’t Never Been Told: A Narrative Account with Entertaining Passages of the State of Minstrelsy & of America & the True Relation Therof, Harris offers a mash-up of prose, poetry, script and screenwriting to explore the cultural roots of contemporary African-American stereotypes.
The 70-year-old artist is currently working on three novels; his latest play, Cool Blues, premieres at New York’s New Federal Theatre in March.
A sampling of Bill Harris from Metro Times:
Arts and culture editor Travis R. Wright’s review of Harris’ Birth of a Notion, or The Half Ain't Never Been Told and interview with the author.
An excerpt from Harris’ novel Ashes on the Water:
Harris on photographers Lester Sloan,
and Gordon Parks.
Harris on musicians Yusef Lateef,
and Billie Holiday.