Darryl Harper is a jazz musician interested in the sociopolitical forces of race and culture that intersect in music; the role of jazz in defining, and in being defined by, political ideology; and the potential of musical performance and other embodied practices as formats for creating and disseminating new knowledge. 

Harper has performed as a jazz clarinetist in venues throughout the world. His credits include opening concerts for Max Roach, the Billy Taylor Trio, and the Wynton Marsalis Quartet, as well as dates with Freddie Bryant, Orrin Evans, Tim Warfield, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carla Cook, Roscoe Mitchell, Dave Holland, Uri Caine, and a two-year stint with violinist Regina Carter, touring with her throughout the U.S., Europe, South America and the Caribbean. Harper has led the small jazz ensmble The Onus since 1996. His projects as a leader also include the C3 Project, a multi-media presentation of music, video, dance and poetry. 

As a composer, Harper has published and recorded more than two dozen works. He has written a score for the documentary film Herskovits: At the Heart of Blackness, which garnered the John O’Connor Film Award from the American Historical Society, as well as “Best Documentary” prizes from the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival and the Black Hollywood Film Festival. Harper has also written commissions for choreographers Li Chiao-Ping and Ingo Taleb Rashid and for visual artists Peter Bruun and Elisa Jimenez. 

As a co-investigator for The Lullaby Project-VCU, Harper collaborated with healthcare professionals, social service agencies and Carnegie Hall to help create musical experiences for pregnant women and new mothers who were facing challenging circumstances such as teenage pregnancy, homelessness or incarceration. The project invited participants to work with professional musicians to write a personal lullaby for their babies, strengthening the bond between parent and child. 

Selected Albums

  • The Need's Got To Be So Deep (Hipnotic 2014)
  • The Edenfred Files (Hipnotic 2013)
  • Stories in Real Time (Hipnotic 2009)
  • Y'All Got It: Music from The Wiz (Hipnotic 2004)
  • Triphony (Hipnotic 2004)


Darryl teaches courses in jazz history, improvisation, the live music experience, embodied practice and musicianship.