Michael Joseph Harris
Michael Joseph Harris :: guitarist/composer/Arranger :: Ultrafaux Ensemble & hot club of baltimore :: Artistic director & founder of charm city Django Jazzfest
In 2012, guitarist Michael Joseph Harris began studying and playing the music of legendary Jazz Manouche guitarist Django Reinhardt which led to the creation of The Hot Club of Baltimore later that same year. Harris then started the band Ultrafaux in 2014 to perform his original Gypsy Jazz compositions. In 2015, Harris founded and remained Artistic Director for Charm City Django Jazzfest which is the only annual Jazz festival in Baltimore, Maryland.
Harris went on to self-produce six full-length Django Reinhardt-inspired recordings with both groups and is now in the studio to record another album of original music under the name, Ultrafaux Ensemble featuring guest artists from all over the world. Harris’ song Latcho Dromo (recorded in 2014) was chosen to be included on an International compilation of the best gypsy jazz from worldwide produced by Jon Larsen called Django Festival #9. Hot Club of Baltimore’s recording of Place de Brouckere was included the following year on Django Festival #10, followed by Ultrafaux’s Signs of Struggle on Django Festival #11 making Michael Joseph Harris the only American artist featured for three consecutive years.
Ultrafaux has performed at Festival Django Reinhardt in Fontainebleau, The Kennedy Center in DC, Charm City Django Jazz Festival in Baltimore, Django by the Sea in Maine, Django-A-Gogo in New York, The Midwest Gypsy Swing Festival in Wisconsin, Napa Valley Jazz Society in California, Djangoary in Virginia, Django Birthday Festival in Asheville North Carolina, Valhalla Boathouse Theater in South Lake Tahoe, Red Poppy Arthouse in San Francisco, Jazz Club Lyon St. Georges in Lyon France, Art Base in Brussels, and IMT Folk Series in Maryland, and they continue to tour the United States, Europe, the UK and Canada. Michael Joseph Harris was invited in 2018 to perform at Preston Jazz and Improvisation Festival in England with violinist Daniel John Martin and will be returning with Ultrafaux there in June of 2020 as part of a UK Tour.
Harris was named one of the top ten musicians by Baltimore Style Magazine and has been featured on the front page of The Baltimore Sun Weekend Section, CBS News, and WDVX Blue Plate Special multiple times. He is founder and artistic director for the popular Charm City Django Jazz Festival which happens annually during the last weekend of February at The Creative Alliance in Baltimore.
Michael Joseph Harris began playing guitar at the age of 12 and quickly became skilled in jazz by age 16, winning accolades as guitarist with the Downbeat Magazine award-winning Chantilly High Jazz Band. Harris learned many styles of guitar playing by ear and through private instruction with guitarist Rick Whitehead of the Airmen of Note during high school, then later with the legendary Jazz educator Jack Petersen at North Texas State University. The young guitarist favored learning by experience to the structure of formal education and soon began performing non-stop with his own projects in various styles including straight ahead jazz, original rock, funk, fusion, blues, Latin, Brazilian, and jam band music influenced by the style of Congolese guitarist Franco.
Before Ultrafaux, Harris founded the Afro Latin Jazz group Bossalingo in 1996 and worked as a freelance guitarist in the DC area until moving to Baltimore in 2006. Bossalingo began as a trio with drummer Tom Barrick and bassist Eric Leifert and then quickly expanded to include various percussionists such as Alejandro Lucini, Rene Ibanez, Jose Lopez, Bruno Lucini, and Alfredo Mojica with bassist Leo Lucini, and later with bassist Jake Leckie, drummer Mike Kuhl, and Cesar Orozco on piano.
The guitarist became a father to his daughter Lotus in 2008 and finally returned to the recording studio in 2011 to produce Steps Beyond, an instrumental jazz recording of Cuban-inspired originals. The highlight of the Steps Beyond Tour was a sold out set at Blues Alley in 2011 which included grammy-winning guest pianist Arturo O’Farrill. The success of the show and the subsequent tour launched Harris onto the path of performing his own compositions exclusively.