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Bassist Arthur Harper Dies

Arthur Harper Jr., a bassist who worked with Shirley Scott, Charles Mingus and many other notable jazz leaders, died July 5 at his home in Germantown, Penn., of lung cancer. He was 65.

Harper was born in Asheville, N.C. and raised in Philadelphia, where he studied music in high school and played with the Heath Brothers, the Bryant Brother sand Lee Morgan. Harper quit high school for the opportunity to play with a number of luminaries including Betty Carter and Bud Powell. In 1961 Jimmy Heath recommended Harper to trombonist J.J. Johnson, who hired him as the bassist in his touring sextet. Harper held that position for 12 years, and during that time relocated to New York, where he lived with drummer Granville “Mickey” Roker and worked frequently at the Hickory House.

In the 1970s Harper returned to Philadelphia. Despite not being part of the Big Apple scene, he still managed to work with leading names in jazz, including Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Kenny Barron, Joe Williams and Shirley Scott.

In the early 1990s Harper joined keyboardist Scott in the band for Bill Cosby’s game show You Bet Your Life. He played on Scott’s 1991 album Blue Everywhere. Harper can also be heard on Scott’s Oasis and J.J. Johnson’s 1964 album Proof Positive. The last album he played on is saxophonist Odean Pope and vibraphonist Khan Jamal’s Nothing is Wrong on CIMP.

Harper is survived by companion of 30 years, Gloria Lewis Ware, four sisters and a brother.

Originally Published