An Evening with The Big Chief Donald Harrison
Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space
Big Chief Donald Harrison merges the sounds of the New Orleans Jazz Fest and Big Apple Jazz with a special guest performance by Grammy Nominee Christian Scott.
Donald Harrison has been declared "...A name you will come to know" by Ed Bradley on CBS Sunday Morning. Through his participation in many musical and cultural entities he has evolved into the personification of 300 years of American music. Harrison's performances showcase: cutting-edge New York swing; driving, funky, smooth sounds, New Orleans cultural music; and straight-up New Orleans funk. His concerts are a return to the style of music presentation that engages all the senses.
His many awards include France's "Grand Prix du Disque", Switzerland's "The Ascona Award", Japan's Swing Journal "Alto Saxophonist of the Year", The Jazz Journalist Association's "A List Award", Jazziz Magazine's "Person of the Year", and the Big Easy Music Awards "Ambassador of Music".
A small list of his influential musical innovations includes "New York Second Line", "Indian Blues", and "The Spirits Of Congo Square." He is the founder and "King of Nouveau Swing" " which is his style of jazz that merges the soulful sounds he grew up with in New Orleans with modern dance music into a swinging New York context. Experience his latest contribution "Quantum Leap", and learn why he is a musical category unto himself.
To date, Harrison continues New Orleans' indigenous tradition as "The Big Chief of the Congo Square Nation Afro-New Orleans cultural group". His father, Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr., taught him this tradition. Harrison Sr. learned the tradition from Big Chief Lawrence Fletcher, First Chief of Chiefs, Robert Nathaniel Lee ("Robbe"), and Brother Cornelius Tillman - all of whom had ties to the old days. Retaining Congo Square's traditions are important because "The Square" was one of the only places in America where people of African descent were allowed to openly participate in their African culture. Harrison keeps alive the offshoot rituals, call and response chants, and drumming of this culture as a participant. The influences of this rich music and American root culture can be heard in jazz, r & b, funk, hip-hop and classical music.
Harrison has performed with an illustrious list of distinguish musicians and icons in Jazz, R & B, Funk, Classical and more. The list includes (but is not limited to) Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, Lena Horne, Eddie Palmeri, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Jennifer Holiday, Dr. John, Guru's Jazzmatazz, Digable Planets, Notorious BIG, Arturo O'Farrill's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
Aspects of Harrison's life and music have been chronicled in David Simon's ground breaking HBO series, Treme. Harrison appears as himself in seven episodes engaging in banter based on his own life.
As an actual evacuee/survivor of Hurricane Katrina, Harrison appears in Spike Lee's HBO special When the Levees Broke.
In the Box office, Harrison appeared in and co-wrote the sound track for Academy Award winning director Jonathan Demme's feature film, Rachel's Getting Married starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemary DeWitt, Bill Irwin and Debra Winger.
Harrison the educator has taught an impressive list of young upstarts which includes trumpeter Christian Scott, trombonist/singer Trombone Shorty, guitarist Josh Connelly and saxophonists Louis Fouche, Chris Royal and Aaron Fletcher. His working groups have proven to be a quiet incubator for jazz band leaders such as guitarist Mark Whitfield, pianist Cyrus Chestnut and bassist(s) Christian McBride, Dwayne Burno, and Esperanza Spaulding - all of whom spent time playing with Harrison.
Currently performing with Big Donald Harrison will be Detroit Brooks (guitar), Joe Dyson (drums), Max Moran (bass) and Zaccai Curtis (piano).