In this article, I would like to introduce you to the musician Chiz Harris, the man who played a key role in the realization of the LA project. As a friend and inspiring musician, but also as an incredibly hospitable host during our stay in LA.
While recording the album, we had the great pleasure of staying in Chiz Harris magnificent house on Hollywood Hill, which – when smog-free – offered a stunning view of Los Angeles. Looking out over the city, far above its bustle and fumes, we learned that in LA, success and wealth are measured by the altitude of your home.
Chiz, who came from an Irish-Dutch mining family, grew up in the north of the United States. He left home at an early age and went off to ‘LaLa land’ (the insiders’ nickname for the entertainment metropolis) all on his own. He wanted to escape the poverty his parents had known and was determined to work his way up. It was this determination that helped Chiz to rise far above most of his fellow musicians in terms of business acumen and instinct.
In the 1950s, while already building quite a reputation as a jazz drummer, he invested his earnings in plots of land just outside LA. Years later, the land he bought for next to nothing became very sought-after, and was sold – at a tidy profit – and developed into offices for major multinationals.
Of course, it was not just business instinct that brought Chiz Harris success, it was also his amazing talent for music. As a musician, he performed with the greats, including a long stint in the orchestra of actor, comedian and singer Jerry Lewis. This was a period he loved to talk about. I remember a wonderful story about a ‘fancy concert at Buckingham Palace’, where a surprising amount of dope was smoked… and not just by the musicians!
Over the years, he also worked and performed a lot with Frank (Giebels). In 1991 they even recorded an album together, called Science Friction. Chiz was also the one who took us to the latest, most influential music clubs, introduced us to his immense music network in and around LA, and to countless fellow musicians. His role in the realisation of The LA Project went far beyond the percussion parts he played so brilliantly. Chiz’s musicality, commitment, knowledge, network and hospitality were pivotal in starting our musical careers.
In his final years, drumming became increasingly difficult, and Chiz and his wife retreated to a kind of resort for rich elderly people. Frank visited him there once, but as was to be expected of a lively and energetic person like Chiz, he hated it there.
Chiz Harris died in 2005.