Plan A: The most significant part of my education came in the form of an apprenticeship with Jazz Master Barry Harris from 1978 – 1984 in New York City. Profoundly inspired, I returned to Toronto eager to pass on the wisdom of Dr. Harris. This resulted in the founding of Howard Rees’ Jazz Workshops (Canada’s Oldest Independent Jazz School), now celebrating its 30th year. The Jazz Workshops have attracted more than 2,500 students from as far a field as Argentina, Bahamas, Chile, France, Holland, Japan, Serbia, Switzerland, Trinidad, the UK and the USA.
Plan B: In 1992 Barry Harris and I formed a partnership for the purpose of formally documenting Dr. Harris’ methodologies. To date, we have released 3 volumes: ‘The Barry Harris Workshop Video’, dubbed the ‘Bebop Bible’ by Tommy Flanagan; ‘The Barry Harris Workshop Video, Part 2 and The Barry Harris Vocal Workshop Video’. The BHWV series are now part of course curriculum in schools throughout Europe, the Middle East, Japan and North America. In 2002, Jazzworkshop Productions was formed as the publishing and distribution company for these materials.
Plan C: In 2008 I founded We Are One Jazz Project. A registered Canadian charitable organization, this annual mentorship project matches master musicians with children from priority neighborhoods. The concept was born out of several of my own experiences and observations, including:
- that the beauty and power of jazz music is a force for social change
- the world is losing knowledge at a rate far exceeding that at which it’s being replaced
- despite current political slash & burn ‘thinking’, exposure to the classical arts plays an essential role in young people’s development.
Students (grades 3-6) attend weekly choir rehearsals and in class jazz vocal coaching sessions over a 4-month period. This intensive program culminates in a high profile public performance. The centerpiece of the performance is the children’s choir (250-300 voices) accompanied by a big band, a string section, the We Are One Jazz Voices and special guest artists. Our repetoire is drawn from the beautiful orchestral works of Barry Harris.
Plan D: Jazz School Online launched in 2011 and features over 200 video lessons. This project fulfills another personal goal – that of making the inspired principles of Barry Harris available to students of jazz everywhere. More than 2 years in the making, the JSO establishes an online school and community forum where people can study, meet other like-minded musicians and share information with each other.
Plan E: Become a better musician and spend another 50+ years digging deeper into this beautiful music.
Ongoing: I have had the privilege of performing at various venues in Canada and abroad, with some of my favorite musicians including: Charles McPherson, Ray Drummond, Barry Harris, Akira Tana, Leroy Williams, Earl May, Kenny Burrell and Jaki Byard. I have had the honor of being invited to teach at schools in Canada, Holland, Japan, Serbia, Spain, the UK and the U.S.A. On several occasions, I have been asked to contribute to Keyboard Magazine’s ‘Master Class’ series. Currently I’m enjoying directing the We Are One Jazz Voices, a unique vocal ensemble and piano trio; authoring two new books on jazz harmony and improvisation, and practicing Shotokan Karate, to which I have devoted some 35 years under O Sensei Tsuruoka and Shihan T. Jungblut and currently hold the rank of godan.