In a 1993 interview, Harris said his musical course was set at the age of 7 when he first heard Duke Ellington.
"That's my life," Harris said at the time. "That's all I ever wanted to be."
Harris also was an arranger, bandleader, composer, conductor instrumentalist and educator.
His most lasting contribution may be the New Breed Bebop Society Orchestra he formed in 1983 for "kids coming home every day with their instruments and no place to play them after they leave school."
The upcoming Detroit International Jazz Festival during the Labor Day weekend will be dedicated to Harris, who died Monday at a Detroit veterans' hospital.