Gene Harris was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan in 1933.  Fresh out of high school, he joined the Army and performed in the US Army Band during the Korean War.  In his early twenties, he began playing piano with Andy Simpkins on bass and Bill Dowdy on drums.  Together, they began defining “Soul-Jazz,” a warm sounding jazz style infused with blues and gospel, for the next 25 years.  Gene Harris retired to Boise in the late 1970s.  He regularly led informal jam sessions at the Idanha Hotel and also mentored local musicians.  In 1983, bass player Ray Brown asked Gene to return to the studio resulting in his first recording out of retirement…Milt Jackson’s “Soul Route.”  In 1989, Gene was approached to lead an all-star big band world tour leading to two recordings that marked him as a great large band arranger and leader.  One of his most popular songs was his version of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  On January 2000, he died while waiting for a kidney transplant.  Gene will be remembered for his passionate piano playing and the enormous smile on his face while performing.  That passion lives on in the Gene Harris Jazz Festival, a piece of Boise’s culture bringing the love of music to this town.  A portion of profits from this festival are contributed to providing music scholarships at Boise State University.  Gene’s daughter, Niki Harris, holds The Coming Home Coming Together concert every summer in Benton Harbor in his honor as well.  Gene Harris had a superior command of the blues and ballads and his legacy will forever be some of the most enduring jazz music ever.