Kemp Harris
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Kemp Harris

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band Blues Folk


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"As a songwriter, Harris has his finger of the pulse of the modern world"

“On Edenton, the veteran musician asserts a profound understanding of the power of our musical roots to restore and revitalize the soul in dark impeccable blending of spirituals and blues. As a songwriter, Harris has his finger of the pulse of the modern world. He sings with an intensity born of awareness, and he writes with an uncomplicated understanding of what our lives lack.”

Art Tipaldi,
- Blues Revue

"National Public Radio"

Kemp Harris is a thief, a tease and a heartbreaker. Plus, he knows too much.  And its all right there when he sings.  Beautifully there.  Watch out.  He'll take your breath away. - Tom Ashbrook

"All Music Guide"

Though Kemp Harris' name may lack wide recognition, he has contributed to the work of a number of artists ranging from Koko Taylor to Taj Mahal. While these influences might suggest a proclivity to blues, Harris works on a larger canvas on Sometimes in Bad Weather, embracing jazz, soul, and folk.

Whereas ³Waterbaby" gives the impression of a smooth crooner, its follow up Something You Heard Before" relies on world beat rhythms and a chorus of background singers.

Harris reveals his social conscious on Ruthie's," a song noting the hypocrisy of those who profess belief in God and family values but reject those different from them, and If Loneliness Was Black," a piece he wrote for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

All of these songs are wrapped in attractive, full arrangements, featuring guitar, piano, bass, and percussion, offering just the right touch to underline Harris' vocals. Sometimes in Bad Weather also succeeds by altering the mood and tone from track to track, keeping the listener's ears perked for the next selection. All of the songs have been written or co-written by Harris, and the material is consistent for the length of the album. Sometimes in Bad Weather finds an artist stepping out front to create a warm, soulful sound. - Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

"Boston Herald"

Sometimes In Bad Weather (Almost Famous): Kemp Harris is an actor, children's author and musician - is a master of telling stories. His new disc, "Sometimes In Bad Weather," is rife with emotional cattle prods and rich, intriguing tales of ordinary life.

Delicate and tender, yet full and robust, "Sometimes In Bad Weather" is a fine achievement.

Hail, Kemp Harris.
- Michael J. Ryan

"Rambles -"

Kemp Harris has produced a deliciously slow-burning blend of jazz, soul and folk that is so laid back it is horizontal! This talented guy writes the songs, sings, plays piano and produced this delightful album. From the opening "Waterbaby," soulful, slow and sexy, through the uptempo African folk-influenced "Something You Heard Before" to the cool jazz ballad "It's Just Us," Kemp immediately grabs your attention in a subtle and hypnotic way -- you can't resist, and slide deeper into the groove. "Ruthie's" has more of a southern American folk feel about it, with some lovely guitar work by Josh Stoltzfus. "What Are the Chances" insinuates itself into your conciousness as a soul ballad, gradually morphing into a gospel-influenced vamp that exudes energy on a completely different level. "Now and Then" opens in similar vein, but follows a more spacey, new-agey rhythm and retaining the mellowness throughout. He starts "I'm Glad" with solo vocals, then adds fingersnaps, then backing harmony vocals; the track stands out for this difference and breaks the slightly somnolent feel without completely destroying the mood. "Bring You Down," a pointed social commentary, is set to a smooth jazz/funk musical backing, and then the title track slows down a notch or so, keeping more to the jazz side of things -- whatever the weather, the music and the lyrics are superbly cool! Kemp draws to a close with "If Loneliness Were Black," a strong finish with a loose jazz ballad. This has been on constant replay while I've been reviewing it, and is still not filed away on the shelf -- it is an ideal de-stressing device. Kemp's vocals and his music blend in a dreamy blur that allows you to focus on his words, or wallow in the luxury of the rich sound. Wonderful! Just wonderful! - Cultural Arts Magazine

"Sing Out"

Songwriter, performer, children's author and actor Kemp Harris's long musical career has seen him sharing stages with Taj Mahal, Koko Taylor and Gil ScottHeron as well as composing for the acclaimed Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre.

His latest, all-originals project reveals an artful tapestry of soul, jazz and African folk influences highlighted by Harris' Southern Gospel saturated vocals and head-turning arrangements a la Donny Hathaway or Marvin Gaye.

A pair of tracks are particularly riveting: "Ruthie' s" and "Bring You Down."
The former is an anguished plea dealing with attitudinal prejudice and the hypocrisy of intolerance. The latter showcases Harris's stunning chant vocal approach, accompanied by some thrilling guitar and imaginative keyboard/vocal chorus charts.

Further organic efforts include an a cappella, call and response sanctified interlude ("I'm Glad, I'm Glad"), the tempo-shifting soul ballad "What Are the Chances" and the set closing "If Loneliness Was Black," an Ailey-employed folk/jazz statement in the
tradition of Nina Simone.

The album is full of illuminating songs sung with compelling conviction - Gary von Tersch

"Boston Globe"

Kemp Harris's diverse background as an author, teacher, actor and composer feeds his most recent musical project, a laid-back collection of R&B that has deep roots in folk, jazz, and funk. At once spirited and relaxed, the material wends seamlessly from the old-school slow-dance "Waterbaby" to hypnotic tribal rhythms on "Something You Heard Before" to the sax-infused jazz musings of "It's Just Us."
While the vagaries of love dominate the lyrics, the Cambridge-based Harris's social conscience gives the album a finely tuned topicality that happily is more poetic than preachy. He takes on discrimination to powerful effect on rootsy, ebullient "Ruthies" and domestic abuse via "Bring You Down." Vocalist Lydia Harrell adds soulful layers to Harris's unadorned tones, which occasionally feel overly constricted.

His loosest, lovliest sounds tumble out when Harris is navigating outside prescribed tempos and measured phrasing, as on the disc's standout track, "If Loneliness Was Black," a languorous meditation Harris original composed for and performed with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. - Joan Anderman

"Body and Soul"

Kemp Harris: Sometimes in Bad Weather

This jewel of an album is a simmering soul-funk-jazz stew that accentuates Harris’s velvet vocals and sly songwriting. His singing may remind you of Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder, but his songwriting style is all his own. Wise, humorous, and powerful, these songs quickly seem like old friends. - CD Review


Edenton - 2007
Sometimes In Bad Weather - 2002



Kemp Harris is a composer, musician, author and actor. WIth almost four decades behind him as a songwriter and performer, Kemp Harris has collaborated with a surprising list of talent. He has shared the stage with Koko Taylor, Taj Mahal and Gil-Scott Heron, as well as composing original music for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

Born in North Carolina, Kemp taught himself piano and was writing songs at age 14.

In his latest release, "Edenton," Harris' wide range of experience comes through in a powerful and intensely personal album. The album features the legendary Holmes Brothers on backing vocals. With the support of the Holmes Brothers, Harris' original songwriting and performances reflect a mature artist not content to rehash the cliches of the blues and roots genre. Harris shows his willingness to fuse diverse elements in the search for a more modern and timely blues. "Edenton," brings an edgier, darker vibe to this traditional American music style.

Kemp’s previous release, “Sometimes in Bad Weather”, is a thoughtful tapestry exploring the intersection of American roots music, jazz, and African folk influences.

Kemp currently maintains a songwriting residency at the Wang Center for the Performing Arts in Boston in conjunction with Berklee College of Music, assisting talented young artists with composition and performance.

As an actor, Kemp has performed in television, film, and on stage. His more recent work includes Steven Spielberg’s "Amistad".