Donald Harrison

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Donald Harrison
Donald Harrison, Jr..jpg
Donald Harrison Jr. at the New Orleans Jazz Fest 2007
Background information
Born (1960-06-23) 23 June 1960 (age 58)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Genres Jazz, R&B, funk, hip hop, classical orchestral composer
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Saxophone
Associated acts The Congo Square Nation Afro-New Orleans Cultural Groups, The Cookers

Donald Harrison Jr. (born June 23, 1960) is an American jazz saxophonist from New Orleans, Louisiana.


Harrison studied at Southern University and Berklee College of Music.[1] He played with Roy Haynes, Jack McDuff, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and Don Pullen in the 1980s. He also played with the re-formed Headhunters band in the 1990s. In 1991 he recorded Indian Blues which captured the sound and culture of Congo Square in a jazz context. In 1994 Harrison created the "Nouveau Swing" style of jazz,[2] which merges the swing beat with today's dance music. In 2010 he recorded "Quantum Leap" where he moves modern jazz from a two dimensional state into a four dimensional state."

Harrison also performs in the smooth jazz genre. His group, Donald Harrison Electric Band, has recorded popular radio hits and have charted in the top ten of Billboard magazine. He performs as a producer, singer and rapper in the traditional Afro-New Orleans culture and hiphop genres with his group, The New Sounds of Mardi Gras. The group, which has recorded two albums, was started in 2001[when?] and has made appearances worldwide. Harrison is the Big Chief of the Congo Nation Afro-New Orleans Cultural Group, which keeps alive the secret traditions of Congo Square. He also writes for orchestras.

Harrison was chosen as the "person of the year" by Jazziz magazine in January 2007. His latest albums, 3D Vols. I, II, and III, feature him in three different musical genres. On Vol. I he writes, plays, and produces music in the smooth jazz, and R&B style. On Vol. II he writes, produces and plays in the classic jazz style. On Vol. III he writes plays and produces in the hiphop genre.

In 2016 Harrison recorded his first orchestral work with The Moscow Symphony Orchestra. He is a natural composer because he amazingly composes and orchestrates classical orchestral music with out ever taking any classes in writing or orchestrating for symphonic orchestra. He followed up the piece for the MSO by writing new classical orchestral works for the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, The New York Chamber Orchestra and The Jalapa Symphony Orchestra in 2017.

Harrison has nurtured a number of young musicians including the young Grammy-nominated trumpeter Christian Scott (Harrison's nephew), as well as Mark Whitfield, Cyrus Chestnut, Christian McBride, and The Notorious B.I.G.[3] Harrison was featured in Spike Lee's HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke, and has appeared as himself in 11 episodes of HBO's Treme in which the characters Albert and Delmond Lambreaux are based on his life.[4]


As leader[edit]

  • 1990: Full Circle (Sweet Basil)
  • 1990: For Art's Sake [live] (Candid)
  • 1991: Indian Blues (Candid) -with Dr. John
  • 1991: New Orleans Gumbo (Candid) -with Dr. John; rel. 2013
  • 1993: Message: The Art of Blakey (Evidence) -with Brian Lynch, Robin Eubanks, Ralph Moore, Geoffrey Keezer, Peter Washington, Carl Allen
  • 1994: The Power of Cool (CTI)
  • 1996: Nouveau Swing (Impulse!)
  • 1998: Free To Be (Impulse!)
  • 2000: Spirits of Congo Square (Candid)
  • 2001: Real Life Stories (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2001: Kind of New (Candid) -with Christian Scott
  • 2002: Heroes (Nagel Heyer) -with Ron Carter, Billy Cobham; rel. 2004
  • 2002: Free Style (Nagel Heyer) rel. 2005
  • 2003: Paradise Found (Fomp) -with Christian Scott
  • 2004: The Survivor (Nagel Heyer) -with Mulgrew Miller; rel. 2006
  • 2005: New York Cool: Live at The Blue Note (Half Note) -with Ron Carter, Billy Cobham
  • 2006: 3D, Vol. 1 [smooth jazz/urban rhythm & blues/funk] (Fomp) -with Chris Botti, Chuck Loeb
  • 200?: 3D, Vol. 2 [classic jazz] (Fomp)
  • 200?: 3D, Vol. 3 [hip-hop] (Fomp)
  • 2008: The Chosen (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2009: The Ballads (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2009: The Burners (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2009: Two of A Kind (Nagel Heyer) -with Christian Scott
  • 2010: Quantum Leap (Fomp)
  • 2011: This Is Jazz: Live at The Blue Note (Half Note) -with Ron Carter, Billy Cobham
  • 2010: The New Sounds of Mardi Gras, Vol. 1
  • 2012: The New Sounds of Mardi Gras, Vol. 2
  • 2018: The Eclectic Jazz Revolution of Unity

As co-leader with Terence Blanchard[edit]

  • 1983: New York Second Line (Concord)
  • 1984: Discernment (Concord)
  • 1986: Nascence (Columbia)
  • 1986: Eric Dolphy & Booker Little Remembered Live At Sweet Basil, Vol. 1 (Evidence)
  • 1986: Fire Waltz: Eric Dolphy & Booker Little Remembered Live At Sweet Basil, Vol. 2 (Evidence)
  • 1987: Crystal Stair (Columbia)
  • 1988: Black Pearl (Columbia)

As sideman[edit]

With Art Blakey

With Joanne Brackeen

With The Headhunters

With the Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project

With Eddie Palmieri

With Don Pullen

With Dr. Lonnie Smith

With Esperanza Spalding

On DVD[edit]

On TV[edit]

  • Treme as himself 2008 to 2011 on HBO
  • Marvel's Luke Cage as himself in EP 201 on Netflix


  1. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Donald Harrison: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  2. ^ Ratliff, Ben (1999-03-06). "Donald Harrison: JAZZ REVIEW; A Fusion With Funk, Thoroughly Mixed". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  3. ^ "Biggie Smalls: The Voice That Influenced A Generation". NPR. 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2010-08-18. 
  4. ^ "Donald Harrison: 'A one-man jazz festival' - Donald Harrison Jr. a complex keeper of local culture". Times Picayune. 2010-04-25. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 

External links[edit]