Jeff Harshbarger is a jazz musician and prolific composer who has recorded and performed across the globe with artists like Bobby Watson, Allison Miller and Curtis Fuller. Co-founder of Tzigane Music, an artist-run collective and record label, he is also curator of Jeff Harshbarger Presents: An Alternative Jazz Series promoting new and improvised music in Kansas City. Harshbarger has received numerous grants and awards including The Kennedy Center’s Betty Carter Fellowship, the Steans Institute Fellowship and the Professional Development Grant from the Creative Capital Foundation. Harshbarger is currently touring with the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey with upcoming shows at The Abby Pub in Chicago, The Blue Note in New York City and the Rochester International Jazz Festival in Rochester, N.Y.
What makes KC a great environment for creativity and the arts?
I think it’s the creative community in general – the people that are here are extraordinary. We have a plethora of talented people…the talent pool is as deep as anywhere I’ve ever been with an arts scene as vibrant as any city I’ve ever been to. I feel like any idea I have, I can make three phone calls and I’ll have a crew of folks, a venue, media… whatever I need. People here want the arts to succeed and that it makes it a perfect place to practice your craft.
What is your favorite spot in Kansas City?
I really like Manifesto. It’s a tiny dark joint that is relaxing and wonderful. I also really enjoy The Living Room Theatre. We’ve done some great work there.
Where’s your favorite place outside of Kansas City?
Urban-wise, I fell in love with Barcelona. Just walking around and observing how people live there. In the States, anywhere with mountains. Our family vacation growing up was Estes Park, so I’m still drawn to that environment.
What’s your most treasured possession?
Who’s your favorite fictional hero?
Percival from the Knights of the Round Table. He’s the one who actually found the Holy Grail. He just sort of bumbled through life and realized he kind of had the secret all along.
Who do you most admire in real-life?
There’s a bass player named Dennis Irwin who was probably my biggest mentor. He passed away at a young age but he taught me a lot – not just about music, but about life. He helped me to grow. He was a musician that happened to play the bass.
When and where are you happiest?
When I’m in that moment of creation while performing when you just get lost and have that out-of-body experience. It’s like I’m observing the organism just doing its thing. Those moments are different than just playing – it really is like an out-of-body experience. It’s a truly immediate space that you cannot construct or design, you just have to surrender to.