Michael Joseph Harris :: guitarist & composer
Ultrafaux performs original music which is influenced by jazz Manouche, gypsy folk music, swing, be-bop, funk, blues, and French musette.
The Hot Club of Baltimore performs inspired arrangements of the Django Reinhardt repertoire and vintage Jazz.
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 was fortunate to study with guitarist Rick Whitehead of the Airmen of Note during high school, then later with Jack Petersen while at North Texas State University. The young guitarist had a hard time conforming to the structure of formal education and soon began performing non-stop with his own projects including straight ahead jazz, original rock, funk, fusion, blues, Latin, Brazilian, and African music.
Harris founded the 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 expanded to include Alejandro Lucini, Leo Lucini, Alfredo Mojica, and later Jake Leckie on bass, Mike Kuhl on drums, 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 including an inventive arrangement of the Wonka theme, “Pure Imagination.” 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.
In 2012, Michael began studying and playing the music of legendary French Manouche guitarist Django Reinhardt which led to the creation of Hot Club of Baltimore later that same year. Harris then founded Ultrafaux in 2014 to perform his original compositions. A popular HD concert video from that same year titled Ultrafaux & Friends helped to create a worldwide audience with over 60,000 views to date.
Michael has since self-produced six full-length recordings with both groups including over 30 original Django Reinhardt-inspired instrumentals. Harris’ song Latcho Dromo was chosen to be included on an International compilation produced by Jon Larsen called Django Festival #9, then Hot Club of Baltimore’s recording of Place de Brouckere was included on Django Festival #10 the following year.
Ultrafaux has done successful tours of the U.S., Europe, and Canada including performances at Festival Django Reinhardt in Fontainebleau, The Kennedy Center, Charm City Django Jazz Festival, Django by the Sea, Django-a-gogo, The Midwest Gypsy Swing Festival, Napa Valley Jazz Society, Baltimore Jazzfest, and the IMT Folk Series. Harris, named one of the top ten musicians in Baltimore by Baltimore Style Magazine, has also been featured in The Baltimore Sun, on CBS news, WYPR, WPFW, WTMD, KPIG, KVMR, and WDVX Blue Plate Special. He founded and is artistic director for the popular Charm City Django Jazz Festival. Michael has also been principal guitarist in theater productions such as Slam! and Next To Normal and has performed with some of the best musicians in the world including Olli Soikkeli, Stephane Wrembel, Olivier Kikteff (Les doigts de l’homme), Jason Anick, Jake Leckie, Arturo O’Farrill, Marian Badoi, and Cesar Orozco, to name a few.
Before forming Ultrafaux and Hot Club, Michael led the group Bossalingo.
Bossalingo blends Jazz with Brazilian and Cuban rhythms in original compositions inspired by the music of Brazil, Cuba, American Jazz, Rock, World, and Folk.