Donald Harrison Group
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Donald Harrison Group


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"Fan Reviews"

Musicians like Donald Harrison give smooth jazz genre much needed credibility.
Reviewer: clopez
I listen keenly to them all sax players. This guy is by far the top on my list. He is one serious musician who knows the foundation of real jazz. This guy knows his stuff. He can swing, do r&b and now smooth jazz. Check out his other "real jazz" cd's.

You Got The Right Stuff Baby
Reviewer: Dawn Jones
Your CD soothes my soul and is a great healer

It's all that and then some.
Reviewer: KB
Track after track, there is no need skip through, every song is a hit.

A smooth jazz masterpiece
Reviewer: Barry Harrison
I have three copies (home, office and car), all on auto repeat.

What can I say "Absolutely awesome"
What can I say "Absolutely awesome" every track is strong, my favourite is "Rainy Nights", already looking forward to your next release.

Real Smooth
Reviewer: Charlene Watkins
This "3D" CD is great. What a great mixture of cool and sassy sounds. My favorite is "Now Is The Time". I'm looking forward to Donald's next CD!

Awesome and Very Very Smooth!
Reviewer: Gary Townsend
Donald Harrison Music is fantastic, great music sound that moves me. This is the best Cd by Donald Harrison, his others are good this one is great!!! Thanks Donald for the awesome sound of music you presented.

- CD Baby

"The Survivor"

Cultural critic Greil Marcus wrote a scathing essay at the end of the 1970s about the rampant overuse of the word "survivor" in modern life. Over 25 years on, musicians of a certain age arguably have more of a right to use the S-word, especially a saxophonist like Donald Harrison, who has stayed true to his own soul-jazz path since his early days as a sideman despite the fact that his brand of funk-influenced hard bop has rarely been the least bit fashionable, even among many jazz listeners. The Survivor is a timeless album, most of which sounds like it could have come from any point in Harrison's career. Yet it's no mere nostalgia kick, because underneath Harrison's sterling alto work, the rhythm section sounds fairly attuned to contemporary trends. "The Hook Up" in particular has a skittering, hip-hop-influenced vibe to John Lamkin's drums; the closing track takes it all the way, being a mash-up of Harrison playing the Duke Ellington standard "Caravan" over a turntablist and a sample of James Brown's iconic "Funky Drummer" beat, perhaps the most-used sample in hip-hop history. The reason this track works in the context of more standard Harrison fare as the gentle original ballad "Sincerely Yours," rather than sounding like a stab at cultural relevance from an aging player, is that funk in all its forms has been at the root of not only Harrison's own music, but of this particular jazz path since the days of Miles Davis' "Walkin'" back in the early '50s. "Survivor" may still be overstating the case a bit, but The Survivor shows that far from being an esoteric form for aesthetic snobs and old folks, Harrison's music has grown along a parallel path to more familiar styles, and moves easily back and forth between them. ~ Stewart Mason, All Music Guide - All Music Guide

"New York Cool"

Donald Harrison
New York Cool : Live at the Blue Note
(Half Note)

by David Dupont
16 January 2006

I’ve always loved the earthy yap and yaw in saxophonist Donald Harrison’s work. His playing has a human urgency that cuts through the neo-con pretensions of so many of his contemporaries. New York Cool: Live at the Blue Note sets his horn in the sparest combo—horn, bass, and drums—with cohorts he rightly calls the maestros, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Billy Cobham.

Notes scribe Ted Panken ties the date to other live saxophone trio sessions by Joe Henderson, which also featured Carter, and Sonny Rollins—but to my mind the closer connection is Lee Konitz’s session Motion with Elvin Jones and Sonny Dallas. Just look at the repertoire: “Body and Soul”, “Easy Living”, “I’ll Remember April”, and “Star Eyes”—all favorite Konitz vehicles. Harrison doesn’t quite scale the heights of that session, but he does offer a performance that’s vigorous and engaging on its own terms.

Harrison charges right through the changes, hewing sturdy melodies from the chords. He never veers from the basic chord structure; Carter seems intent on keeping him rooted. Carter doesn’t so much walk as provide pithy countermelodies that sum up the harmonic melodies. Cobham for his part stays out of the way. His work is propulsive, but unobtrusive. His interactions, though, provide sometimes witty commentary on the solos. He drives Harrison home on “Harrisburg Address” as if he was kicking along a big band, and then he engages in an extended dialogue with Carter that is at times complementary but at other times deliberately contrary. As usual Carter favors a stripped-down rhetoric for his own solos.

Beside the standards, Harrison mixes in the aforementioned medium tempo “Rhythm” changes workout and a slow smoldering closing blues as well as Carter’s “Third Plane”, a nursery rhyme-like bebop piece that sounds less trite in this context than it did when he played it with the V.S.O.P. Quintet. This session isn’t as showy as that. Instead it features solid, characteristic interaction from all hands.
- One Final Note

"New York Cool"

Donald Harrison
New York Cool: Live at the Blue Note
Half Note

Carter and Billy Cobham join Harrison on New York Cool, a landmark disc for the saxophonist, recorded live at the Blue Note. The date is a model of creative construction and group dynamics on which the absence of a chordal instrument only serves to emphasize the three musicians’ individual and collective strengths. Harrison and Cobham begin “Body and Soul” as a duo, so that when Carter comes in on top of the bossa beat the group sounds larger than the trio it is. The band burns through the rhythm changes of “Harrisburg Address,” a line by the leader reminiscent of “The Theme” from his Jazz Messengers days. The bluesy minimalism of “Easy Living” hearkens to Ornette while “I’ll Remember April” and “Star Eyes” boppishly speak to Bird. Carter’s “Third Plane” is truly a modern masterpiece and Harrison’s closing down home “Blues For Happy People” is a pure and simple pleasure. The satisfied audience’s screaming ovation says it all.
- All About Jazz

"Live Show Review"

Donald Harrison

Story and photos by James Walker

While Chicago was in midst of one of the coldest spells in recent memory, New Orleans extraordinary saxophonist Donald Harrison and his band of young musicians were heating things up at the "Mardi-Gras Chicago-style" CAR-NI-VAL at Navy Pier on Feb 9th. Although this writer went to the CAR-NI-VAL expecting a concert, in actuality a full scale party broke out.

Harrison, who is often in Chicago performing at major jazz events and venues, displayed a different side to his musical genius. He danced, sang, and played congas - in addition to playing the sax. Harrison and his young sidemen (including a 17 year old keyboard player and a 17 year old bass player) from the New Orleans Tipitina's Foundation had the capacity crowd in a frenzy by the end of the 2nd tune - the Meters "Cissy Strut." No, this surely was not your typical Donald Harrison gig of straight ahead jazz. This set consisted of a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, head-bobbing crowd that seemed to enjoy every minute of Harrison's performance.

About halfway through this "party," this writer -(having visited New Orleans on numerous occasions befroe katrina) felt as is he was back in the "Big Easy" during Mardi-Gras. The instrumentation and sound in Navy Pier's Grand Ballroom left a lot to be desired, but on this night, no one seemed to care. This audience came to not only hear the sounds of Mardi Gras, but to be actively and directly involved. At the end of this hour-long set, Harrison himself led a "Second Line" parade through the audience as the crowd joined in and danced.

Tha array of music played this evening demonstrated the depth of Harrison's repertoire. In addition to jazz, the group played R&B, funk, smoothjazz and even did a little "rapping" during this highly energetic evening. It's no wonder that Donald Harrison was contracted to perform for this special occasion. Harrison is a true ambassador for New Orleans, and if it has any chance of recapturing its pre-Katrina music days, Donald Harrison will be inrtumental in this revitilazation. His love for the city is quite evident and easily was seen and felt throughout his performance.

New Orleans keyboardist and vocalist Dr. John closed the evening with his laid-back set - which was sort of anti-climactic following Donald Harrison's "Hot" set. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for Dr. John to open and allow Harrison to headline. This writer observed a similar phenomenon this past summer when the renowned Neville Brothers opened for Dr. John at Ravinia with similar results. Dr. John is just too easy-going to follow hot, Mardi-Gras style sets and maintain the enthusiasm of the crowd. Hopefully, in the future, concert organizers will take note of this for the sake of not losing the crowd before the end of the concert.

Overall, this was a fun night and the Mayor's Office of Special Events is to be applauded for making CAR-NI-VAL a part of Chicago's Winter delight.
- Live Wire


New York Second-Line
Crystal Stair
Full Circle
Live At Birdland
Indian Blues
Spirits of Congo Square
Kind of New
The Power of Cool
Nouveau Swing
Free To Be
Paradise Found
Real Life Stories
Free Style
New York Cool
The Survivor
3D Vol. I, II, & III
The New Sounds of Mardi Gras Vol. I, II



DONALD HARRISON, JR. (The King of Nouveau Swing)

Donald Harrison is being called one of the most important musicians of the new millennium. CBS Sunday Morning named him as one the major artist of this era. A list of his accomplishments shows that he has developed into a musical category unto himself. In the classic jazz genre, he is the originator of the Nouveau Swing style which merges acoustic swing with modern R&B, second-line, hip-hop, Mardi Gras Indian music, and reggae rhythms. His smooth jazz recording, “The Power of Cool,” went to the top of Billboard Magazine’s Smooth Jazz and R&B charts and is considered a classic. His ground-breaking recording, “Indian Blues”captured the essence of Mardi Gras Indian culture within a jazz context. His latest New Orleans recording, “The New Sounds of Mardi Gras,” updates New Orleans music. It puts the sounds of Mardi Gras into Hip-hop, R&B, and Funk. It also marks Harrison’s debut as a rapper. The great singer-pianist Dr. John says of the recording, “This is the freshest thing to come out of New Orleans in years. You deserve an award for this one.” Harrison’s newest Classic Jazz recording, “Heroes,” is now available. The CD is a trio recording with the great bass innovator Ron Carter and drum innovator Billy Cobham. The CD also features three bonus tracks with his young working band. In April he released “Freestyle” with his young working band. It showcases his Nouveau Swing in an even funkier presentation. In September Half-Note Records will release his second trio recording with Ron Carter and Billy Cobham which was recorded live at the Blue Note NYC. Presently, Harrison is recording yet another CD titled, “3D.” The recording is a three CD set which features a different genre of music on each disc. The genres are Classic Jazz, R&B-Smooth Jazz, and Hip-hop. This exciting project will showcase Harrison’s ability to produce, write, sing, rap, and play many instruments.

Harrison now a proven master of many musical genres, has written and performed many innovative classic jazz compositions. Some of his compositions are now part of the standard repertoire of jazz. He has written and performed in the R&B and smooth jazz genre where his chart topping recording, “The Power of Cool” has received radio airplay everyday for the last 10 years. He has also written and performed as a Hip-hop MC. His influence on the whole rap culture as an early mentor of The Notorius BIG on the science of rap and life was documented on VH-1. He is also master singer/dancer in The Mardi Gras Indian tradition of New Orleans. Harrison now a Big Chief even designs and makes his own Mardi Gras costumes which are considered works of art. He has composed and played classical works with major orchestras. The question with Harrison is not what he can do, but is there anything he can’t do? So far he has mastered and influenced everything he has touched.

Today the 46-year-old saxophonist is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of these times, yet he remains inextricably tied to his New Orleans roots. The son of late great Mardi Gras Indian Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. began working with Roy Haynes at age 19 and Jack McDuff at age 20. He joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at age 21. A few years later, he co-led a band with Terence Blanchard that had an enormous impact on the development of the "neo-conservative" movement. After that group split in 1989, Harrison became a prodigious leader releasing a number of well-received records. Harrison has also discovered and nurtured some of the finest young jazz musicians like the young trumpeter Christian Scott, Mark Whitfield, Dwayne Burno, Christian McBride, Cyrus Chestnut, as well as rap icon The Notorious BIG who was his neighbor in Brooklyn for eight years. He also worked throughout the 90's with a wide variety of world-class talents. Such notables include Lena Horne, Spike Lee, Latin jazz giant Eddie Palmieri, and the smash hip–hop groups, Jazzmatazz, The Notorius BIG, and Digable Planets. All of this diverse experience fuels Harrison's dynamic sound. In the new millennium, Harrison has written and performed major orchestral works. Recently he has performed with his own groups as well as The Head Hunters, Jennifer Holiday, Larry Coryell, and The Art of Four with Billy Cobham, Ron Carter, and James Williams.

He is one of the few musicians who can play it all - from traditional New Orleans, to swing, bop, post-bop, modern, smooth, avant-garde, and beyond. Yet, Harrison has developed his own personal style that traverses and synthesizes all these mediums with great success. Through talent and perseverance, Harrison has developed into one of the most significant artist to emerge in the last twenty years!

"Mr. Harrison turned out to be one of the most musicologically literate jazz players to come out in ages.”
New York Times

“Donald Harrison Jr. … the most interesting, most accessible