Detroit-based jazz musician Wendell Harrison is a recording artist, performer, teacher, author and entrepreneur. His fame as a clarinetist and saxophonist has spread throughout the United States, Africa, The Caribbean, Middle East, and Europe. His instruction book, the Be Boppers Method Book I with accompanying CD and the Be Boppers Method Book II with CD, is an essential aid for young musicians. Currently, Wendell has been touring the USA performing concerts and conducting workshops.
In early years of development, Wendell attended Northwestern High School in Detroit. While attending Northwestern (noted for developing some of the finest jazz musicians in the world), Wendell met trumpeter Lonnie Hillyard, alto saxophonist Charles McPhearson, and percussionist Roy Brooks. These were the musicians that really got Wendell into playing jazz. Hillyard, McPhearson and other class mates were all studying with legendary great pianist Barry Harris and it was not long before Wendell became under his tutelage. Wendell also attended the Detroit Conservatory of Music (now known as the Center for Creative Studies). Wendell moved to New York when he was 18 years old to make his way in the music world and he did. While in New York, he worked with many famed artists such as Lou Rawls, Joe Henderson/Kenny Dorham's big band, Grant Green, Sun Ra, , Hank Crawford and Betty Carter (to name a few). Wendell also found himself sharing the stage with the likes of the late Eddie Jefferson, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Wendell now leads his own ensemble which periodically features many known jazz stars such as Steve Turre, Vanessa Rubin, Dennis Rowland, Don Byron, Howard Johnson, Kirk Lightsey and Charles Tolliver. As a leader, Harrison has eighteen (18) releases to his credit on American record labels Tribe, Rebirth and WenHa, and international labels Soul Jazz (London England), and P Vine/Blues Interactions (Japan). Harrison's latest adventure is his famed clarinet ensemble, Mama's Licking Stick which features each member of the clarinet family ( three B flat clarinets, contra bass and bass clarinets, alto clarinet and Eb clarinet plus rhythm section). Don Byron and Howard Johnson often share the stage in this unique ensemble which continues to gain avid listeners. Enja Records in Germany released BATTLE OF THE TENORS which features Harrison with legendary jazz great Eddie Harris, and RUSH & HUSTLE which features Harrison's clarinet ensemble, Mama's Licking Stick.
Harrison received the Arts Midwest Jazz Masters Award and in 1996 toured with an all star ensemble, The Michigan Jazz Masters, in an international performance tour of Africa and the Middle East. In addition, Wendell also performed as a jazz master with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which featured two movements from his suite Something For Pops.
WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING...
"That noble wooden instrument, the clarinet has a few heroes these days. Buddy DeFranco, Eddie Daniels, Alvin Batiste, the late John Carter, and Don Byron are integrating it into the contemporary language of improvised music., Add to that list Detroiter Wendell Harrison."
Michael G. Nastos - DOWNBEAT
"Wendell Harrison's RUSH & HUSTLE is something new under the sun."
Thomas Conrad - DOWNBEAT
"Wendell Harrison is a composer , author, and educator as well as a skilled and versatile woodwind player."
Tom Jacobson - JAZZ TIMES
"Since the swing era, there have been precious few clarinetists in jazz generally, and particularly among those embracing the styles of the post-bop period. John Carter, Perry Robinson, and Alvin Batiste, yes, but who else? Wendell Harrison for one".
Bart Grooms - OPTION
"Although he's a fluent saxophonist, the striking element of Harrison's talent is his mastery of the clarinet. Eddie Daniels and Buddy DeFranco are probably the most appropriate comparisons."
Paul Baker - THE JAZZ JOURNAL LOS ANGELES
About the Be Boppers Method Book . . .
"This improvisation text by Detroit saxophonist Wendell Harrison reflects the long but rarely known tradition of jazz education in that city, with pianist Barry Harris its major proponent."
David Dempsy - New Saxophone Publications