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Artist Stories

Donald Harrison Jr: Saxophonist, Big Chief, NEA Jazz Master, and Improvisational “Genius”

Donald Harrison Jr.: is considered master of every era of jazz, soul, funk, and classical music.

“A Genius. ” – Eddie Palmieri.

Donald Harrison Jr has created three influential styles of jazz: nouveau swing, a modern second-line, and quantum jazz.  Take a listen to a few of his albums that highlight those styles:  2010 album Quantum Leap.  1997 album Neaveau Swing.

In the HBO drama, “Treme”, Emmy-winning director David Simon created two characters to portray how Harrison innovated new styles of music. The show is loosely based on Harrison’s life and he actually plays himself in many episodes.

“Donald Harrison is one of the most confident and convincing improvisers in jazz today.” – Russ Musto, AllAboutJazz

Donald Harrison Jr. is a 2022 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters Fellowship, the highest honor that our nation bestows on jazz artists. This award recognizes living legends who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz. Learn more and tune in here Thursday, March 31 10:30 p.m. ET for the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert.

“The Mardis Gras Indians meets modern jazz.” – Ted Panken, Morton Report

Donald Harrison Jr. has been recognized since 2019 as “Big Chief” of Congo Square in Afro-New Orleans culture, a representative and leader for the African and Native American roots that have driven traditions of New Orleans for over 100 years. His music and work share that unique New Orleans jazz with the world.  Learn more about why this is important to him.

“The real work you do will shine through like the sun on a clear day.”  –   Donald Harrison

Harrison has been a mentor to artist as diverse as The Notorious Big, Jonathon Batiste, Christian Scott, Trombone Shorty, and Esperanza Spaulding. You may recognize Donald Harrison as one of The Notorious B.I.G.’s mentors from the Netflix documentary “Biggie: I got a Story to Tell”.

JazzArts Charlotte has a long history with Jazz Master Donald Harrison Jr. Artistic Director and drummer Ocie Davis toured with Donald Harrison Jr back in the early 2000s, before Hurricane Katrina brought the Davis’s here to Charlotte. We have enjoyed that friendship, as Donald was JazzArts Camp Clinician in 2013, a guest on “Conversations with Curtis” May 2020.

Harrison joins us in the JAZZ ROOM April 8 & 9 to share this rich and incredible career and music with Charlotte.  Join us for some New Orleans-rooted, swinging, dancing jazz groove from a living legend.

During his JAZZ ROOM weekend, Donald Harrison Jr. is offering a FREE Jazz Workshop Saturday April 9 11:00am to any budding musician, all ages, all levels, all instruments.  Join us for a hands-on masterclass from this jazz legend.

Discover more about Donald Harrison on his website. 

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