Albert Harris

Albert Harris, 1916~2005

Jazz Guitarist, Composer & Musical Director


Albert Harris (born in London on 13th February 1916, died in Auckland NZ – 14th February 2005)
Albert Harris was a Freelance Guitarist in London but he soon became one of the leading lights of the Lew Stone Orchestra

He studied Piano from age 6 and was also an Accordionist and a self-taught Guitarist; his knowledge of this Instrument enabled him in later years to compose pieces specifically for Guitar. He came to New York in 1938 at which time he started playing Piano in Big Bands across the USA.

Freddy Gardner – March 7th, 1936 (Parlophone)
Freddy Gardner (cl,as,bs), Cecil Norman (p), Albert Harris (g), Dick Ball (b), Max Bacon (d). – Japanese Sandman*/Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home*.

Saxist-leader Joe Marsala signs British Guitarist Albert Harris for his enlarged Band at New York’s Fiesta Danceteria 1940

He married Diane Smith, from New Zealand, in California in 1986, and the couple retired to New Zealand in 1992.  He is survived by his wife Diane Harris and his sister Bette Friedman.

Albert Harris worked most of his life in Hollywood as an Orchestrator, Arranger & Composer for several of the big Film Studios and for such pop icons as Barbra Streisand, Roberta Flack & Cher.  He came to New York in 1938.  He earned a Doctor of Music Degree from New York College of Music and moved to Los Angeles in 1942. Albert Harris studied Composition with Mary Carr Moore & Eugen Zador in Los Angeles, and conducting with Richard Lert. He is a recipient of several awards for Choral pieces, Songs, & an Octet for French Horn from the Los Angeles Horn Club.  Albert Harris has lectured for UCLA and the Santa Barbara Academy of the West. He was Assistant Musical Director for NBC from 1946-49. He has arranged and conducted many dramatic scores for television & motion pictures. Albert Harris is a member of Composers & Lyricists Guild of America, and the Board of Directors of the American Society of Music Arrangers. He won the National Composer’s Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his Concerto de California scored for Guitar & String Quartet. Among those nominating Harris was Aaron Copeland with whom Harris shares a harmonic language that, in the words of Ned Rorem, “sounds like the great outdoors”.


Principle Recording Guitarists gathered for an Epiphone Advert 1946.
Top Row
George Elliot, Jack Llewellyn, Harry Pike, Ivor Mariants, George Penton, Albert Harris.
Front Row on Archtops
Sam Grafsley, Sid Colin, Cyril Halliday

A recent BMG issue shows the actual Guitar which is now owned by Brian Davis a former pupil of Jack Llewellyn’s dad. It originally belonged to Albert Harris who had sold it to Jack Senior.

Albert Harris was introduced to Andres Segovia in 1950 by his friend & neighbour Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.  He wrote his Variations & Fugue on the Theme by Handel as a result of this meeting and Segovia promptly recorded it.  Written in a neo-Classical style, the different variations take the form of movements from a Baroque Suite and alternate between strict Baroque Counterpoint and a poignant Romanticism. The theme comes from one of Handel’s “Aylesford” Harpsichord pieces, which Segovia himself had transcribed for solo Guitar. This theme is readily apparent in all Variations save the 4th which is the theme played backwards & upside down. The Tremelo 6th Variation was added at Segovia’s request.

Sonatina for Guitar – 3rd Movement

Flush with the success of the Variations Harris quickly followed it with his Sonatina for Guitar (1953). The Sonatina though still quite neo-Classical in nature displays more of a Jazzier feel and an expanded Harmony. Segovia rejected it, thus ending their collaboration but not their Friendship, which took the form of a lively correspondence that continued until Segovia’s death in 1987.  The Sonatina was premiered in New York by Carlos Barbosa-Lima in Alice Tully Hall on 20th March 1972. The Sonatina was eventually recorded by the Brazilian Guitarist Laurindo Almeida in 1957.

When one thinks of the great pre-bop Guitarists of the 1930s & ’40s, the names that come to mind are Eddie Lang, Carl Kress, Dick McDonough, Django Reinhardt & Charlie Christian along with just a few others. One would normally not think of such obscure Guitarists as Albert Harris & Ivor Mairants

Albert Harris & Ivor Mairants – Guitar Duets-Autumn Harvest (Mairants) (TB2.658), Yankee Doodle plays a fugue (Harris) (TB2657) (Brunswick 02350-2s. 6d.)
Although in Yankee Doodle one hears with the disturbing effect sliding the finger-tips on the fingerboard these 2 Performances are as immaculate as even those who know, these 2 Artists are the finest Guitarists playing in British Dance Bands could expect.

Lew Stone & His Band Pop! Goes Your Heart
Arranged By – Stanley Black Clarinet, Alto Saxophone – Joe Crossman Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone – Ernest Ritte Double Bass [String Bass] – Tiny Winters Drums – Jock Jacobson Guitar – Albert Harris Leader – Lew Stone Piano – Monia Liter, Stanley Black Tenor Saxophone – Don Barrigo, Harry Berly Trombone – Joe Ferrie, Lew Davis Trumpet – Alfie Noakes (2), Nat Gonella Viola – Harry Berly Vocals – Alan Kane