World's Lone Jazz Bagpiper Dead at 70
Wed, 16 Aug 2006 16:41:22
Jazz bagpiper Rufus Harley died of prostate cancer on August 1 at the age of 70. He was known as the first -- and perhaps only -- musician to bring a jazz influence to the Scottish instrument. Harley recorded four albums on Atlantic Records, and appeared on tour and on record with a number of jazz luminaries, including John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sonny Rollins. His high-profile appearances included slots on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show and a night in Bill Cosby's backing band at the Hollywood Bowl. More recently, he had collaborated with The Roots on their album Do You Want More?!!!??!
Harley was also quite a patriot, not to mention a proud promoter of the city of Philadelphia. While on tour, he would sometimes distribute copies of the Constitution, along with miniature replicas of the Liberty Bell.
"Everybody thought I was crazy," Harley had said about his decision to pick up the pipes and occasionally appear in concert dressed in a kilt. He was inspired by footage of bagpipers playing at the funeral of John F. Kennedy. Harley's son, Messiah, also said that his father was steered away from the saxophone, his original instrument of choice, because of the mastery Coltrane and Rollins were displaying.
"[Harley] adapted the bagpipes to jazz, blues, funk and other typically African-American styles, while also acknowledging the instrument's Scottish roots," said Center for the Study of World Musics instructor David Badagnani.
Harley is survived by 16 children and 15 grandchildren.
--The ARTISTdirect Staff