"...blessed..." LA Times
"...the best..." NY Times
"The greatest alto saxophone player." Eddie Palmieri
"The Charlie Parker of these times." Bill Summers
Saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. The fifty-six year old force of nature has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments. He has developed into a young modern jazz master following decades of apprenticing with master musicians of many styles. After learning to play his approximation of dozens of iconic saxophonists from the 20's to the 70's, he created four influential styles of jazz music. The first was developed in 1979 at the age of nineteen. His legacy of adding new ideas to acoustic jazz was first documented on his composition, "New York Second line," a mixture of the sounds and culture of New Orleans' traditional brass band music with New York modern jazz. Harrison's spirit continued to evolve on his 1996 recording, "Nouveau Swing." He merged the swing beat of modern jazz with modern dance beats like funk, soul, R&B, hip-hop and rock on this recording. In 2010, "Quantum Leap" moved the sound of jazz into another frontier with his addition of new areas to take time, harmony and melody.
Harrison's latest project, "The Eclectic Jazz Revolution," continues to explore his quantum jazz sound. This recording highlights diverse sounds including - funk, soul, cutting edge modern jazz, blues, smooth jazz, steppers music and New Orleans music. He also debuts his three-genre composition, "Congo Square." Harrison sings an Afro-New Orleans call and response chant over a drum choir in the first movement. He melds the chants and rhythms of Afro-New Orleans culture into a classical orchestral work in the second movement and concludes with a brilliant sound in jazz when he mixes excerpts of the first and second movements with his modern jazz group in the third movement.
The development of young musicians is important to Harrison, he has nurtured and influenced many of them while teaching with Tipitina's Intern Program or while they played in his bands. Several musicians including his nephew, Christian Scott, have adopted his music and concepts to create their own sounds. Scott took the swing fundamental out of Harrison's nouveau swing concept to develop his stretch music concept. "No nouveau swing, no stretch music, period," Scott says. Jonathan Batiste, Harrison's former student and Musical Director of the Stephen Colbert Show, informed Harrison after hearing his music, "I am going to write my music like yours," he said.
Harrison has other notable interests and accomplishments. He has won numerous music awards and is also a Big Chief in New Orleans culture, patented inventor, costume maker, chef and builder of high-end exotic wood furniture. In David Simon's HBO drama, "Treme," there are two characters based on his life and Harrison appeared in eleven episodes as an actor in the show. He also acted opposite Anne Hathaway in Oscar winning director Jonathan Demme's film, "Rachael Getting Married."