Since coming to Australia nearly 25 years ago, Harkins, a Chicagoan and a product of the great Chicago/Detroit Jazz piano tradition, (think Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Kirk Lightsey, Geri Allen among many), has established himself in the front rank of the local Sydney Jazz scene.
John is what’s known as a hard swinger, possessing great time and exciting drive, effortlessly taking the listener on the musical journey he is creating. It’s an exciting ride but Harkins also brings rich colours and deep emotion to his playing.
Bebop based players can sometimes be accused of creating solos that are technical exercises, impressing the listener but not making them want more. The best ones of coarse don’t and John Harkins takes his place alongside Melbourne’s Mark Fitzgibbon and Canberra’s Wayne Kelly as an outstanding Bop-pianist.
Over the last six years he has recorded five albums with the likes of superb drummers such as Joe Farnsworth and Carl Allen. Harkins has also had the great pleasure of playing Jazz with his long time trio mates, Brendan Clarke and Andrew Dickeson. There’s also a soon to be released piano/bass duo recording with Rodney Whitaker. Not bad going in a tough Jazz scene.
They hire him because they like him as did the many leading Jazz figures with whom he’s shared the stage over so many years – Eric Alexander, Terrell Stafford, Warren Vache, Ted Nash, Marcus Printup, Wycliffe Gordon, Jerome Jennings, Vincent Gardner, Charles McPherson as well as singers Jackie Allen, Mark Murphy, Laverne Butler and Kurt Elling.