Last updated on July 30, 2019
Meeting Harry Whitaker was one of the brightest things that happened to me in New York City. Pianist-composer-producer Harry Whitaker who worked with Woody Shaw, Billy Hart, Roy Ayers, Roberta Flack, and many others was known mostly among New York musicians.
Harry inspired and helped many young players in New York. He was a creative and spiritual man and a truly beautiful human.
While visiting in New York we went to hear Harry a few times at Arturo’s where he had played several times a week for some years. Harry had a very unique sound at the piano. I think it was a special blend of a Detroit piano sound (Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones) with his very own soulful touch.
Harry was a beautiful person, I remember talking to him not once.
I was lucky to have Harry Whitaker on the recording I’ve made together with the singer Simona Arones. Harry played synths and a piano on a few tracks. As we recorded mostly single takes Harry playing was very imaginative and inspiring.
Here is a preview of the recording “Smooth Sailing”: https://simonaarones.com/album/smooth-sailing/
Blues For Piano Players
I was visiting Harry Whitaker in 2004 in his small apartment in Lower Manhattan. Harry played for me and showed me some things I still remember. There was his version of Round Midnight with that beautiful ending he has picked up from Barry Harris (Barry could not remember himself what he did on that).
There was also a very nice tune Harry composed. He said he is teaching this tune his students. He called this “Blues For Piano Players”.
I prepared piano sheet music for the tune for you to play. Check out some nice spread voicings for dominant sevenths chords Harry Whitaker does underneath the melody. In fact, each dominant seventh chord is extended with its important minor chord (on the fifths degree). It is as if you play II-V progression over the bass of the V chord. In other words, F7 becomes Cm7-F7 both played over the F in the bass. Just like F7sus resolving to F7. You can use it to extend your sevenths chords in various musical situations.
Also, notice the B7#11 chord in the bar 4 and the voicings for the Bb7#9 and D7#9 chords.
I suggest you practice the whole tune in different keys to absorb the whole thing and the particular voicings.
It is a simple tune but it sounds great. Harry Whitaker plays it with a great feeling. I am sure you’ll enjoy it.
The sheet music is available for you below (click on image to download the PDF chart).
Blues For Piano Players was recorded on Harry Whitaker CD – Thoughts (Past And Present), Smalls Records, 2007
Here is another trio recording of the late Harry Whitaker, I am sure you will love it – “The Sound of Harry Whitaker” (Fresh Sound Records, 2009)