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 New Orleans African American root 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 recordings, “Heroes” and “New York Cool,” are in a trio format that features the great bass innovator Ron Carter and drum innovator Billy Cobham. In April 2006, he released “Freestyle” with his young working band. This recording showcased his Nouveau Swing in an even funkier presentation. To date, Harrison is recording “3D.” This three CD set will feature 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. In 2007, Harrison was honored with an “A List” award from the 400 member Jazz Journalists Association and was featured on the cover of the January issue of Jazziz Magazine as “The Person of The Year.”
Harrison, 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 past 10 years. He has also written and performed as a Hip-hop MC. His influence on the rap culture as an early mentor of The Notorius BIG on the science of rap and life was documented on VH-1. In 2007, Harrison was featured in Spike Lee’s documentary, “When The Levees Broke” on HBO and also composed an original score for Academy Award winning director Jonathon Demmi’s “Guardians of the Flame “ episode on the “Right to Return” docu-series. The question with Harrison is not what he can do, but is there anything he can’t do? To date, Harrison has mastered and influenced everything he has touched.
Today the 47 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 and Digable Planets. These diverse experiences fuel 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, Rodney Jones, George Coleman, Billy Taylor, 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. … may be the most interesting, most accessible, and most talented musician in the country right now.”
East Bay Express
"… one of the more innovative bandleaders New Orleans has produced in the past 20 years.”