Donald Harrison

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Donald Harrison Jr
Donald Harrison Jr. at the New Orleans Jazz Fest 2007
Donald Harrison Jr. at the New Orleans Jazz Fest 2007
Background information
Born (1960-06-23) June 23, 1960 (age 62)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.[1]
GenresJazz, funk, soul, classical (latter as composer)
Years active1980s–present
LabelsConcord, Columbia, Candid, Impulse!, Nagel Heyer

Donald Harrison Jr. (born June 23, 1960)[1] is an African-American jazz saxophonist and the Big Chief of The Congo Square Nation Afro-New Orleans Cultural Group from New Orleans, Louisiana.

He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Berklee College of Music in 2021. He is also an NEA Jazz Master. He is the uncle and former tutor of Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah, also known as Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah.


Harrison was born to Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr in 1960 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The foundation of Harrison's music comes from his lifelong participation in New Orleans culture. He started in New Orleans second-line culture and studied New Orleans secret tribal culture, under his father, Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr.[2] Whereas, Harrison Jr. is currently the Chief of Congo Square in Afro-New Orleans Culture. He studied at the Berklee College of Music.[2] As a professional musician he worked with Roy Haynes and Jack McDuff, before joining Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Terence Blanchard and recorded albums in a quintet until 1989.[1] Two years later, Harrison released a tribute album to Blakey, For Art's Sake.[3] This was followed by an album that reached into Harrison's New Orleans heritage, with guest appearances by Dr. John and Cyrus Chestnut and chants by the Guardians of the Flame Mardi Gras Indians.[4] He devoted half the album, Nouveau Swing (1997), to mixing the swing beat of modern acoustic jazz, with modern dance music and half to mixing the swing beat with Caribbean-influenced music.[5] On the next album, his experiments continued by mixing modern jazz's swing beat with hip hop, Latin music, R&B, and smooth jazz.[6][7]

His albums, 3D Vols. I, II, and III, present him in three different musical genres. On Vol. I he writes, plays, and produces smooth jazz and R&B style.[2] On Vol. II he writes, produces and plays in the classic jazz style. On Vol. III he writes plays and produces hip hop.

His group, Donald Harrison Electric Band, has recorded popular radio hits and has charted in the top ten of Billboard magazine. He performs as a producer, singer, and rapper in traditional New Orleans jazz and hip hop genres with his group, The New Sounds of Mardi Gras.[2] The group, which has recorded two albums, was started in 2001 and has made appearances worldwide. In 1999, Harrison was named the Big Chief of the Congo Nation Afro-New Orleans Cultural Group, which keeps alive the secret traditions of Congo Square.[2]

In 2016, Harrison recorded his first orchestral work with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. He followed up the piece for the MSO by writing 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 trumpeter Christian Scott (Harrison's nephew), Mark Whitfield, Christian McBride, and The Notorious B.I.G.[8] Harrison was in Spike Lee's HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke, and has appeared as himself in eleven episodes of the television series, Treme.[9]

Harrison was chosen Person of the Year by Jazziz magazine in January 2007.

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Mary Alicė Spears-Harrison and the father of Victoria Harrison.


As leader[edit]

  • 1990: Full Circle (Sweet Basil)
  • 1991: For Art's Sake (Candid)
  • 1992: Indian Blues (Candid) with Dr. John
  • 1994: The Power of Cool (CTI)
  • 1997: Nouveau Swing (Impulse!)
  • 1999: Free to Be (Impulse!)
  • 2000: Spirits of Congo Square (Candid)
  • 2001: Real Life Stories (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2002: Kind of New (Candid)
  • 2003: Paradise Found (Fomp)
  • 2004: Heroes (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2004: Free Style (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2005: New York Cool: Live at The Blue Note (Half Note)
  • 2005: 3D (Fomp)
  • 2006: The Survivor (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2008: The Chosen (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2011: This Is Jazz: Live at The Blue Note (Half Note)[10]

As co-leader with Terence Blanchard

  • 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

  • Evolution Revolution (Basin Street, 2003)
  • Speakers In The House (Ropeadope, 2022)

Withe, 2022) the Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project

With Eddie Palmieri

With Don Pullen

With Lonnie Smith

With Esperanza Spalding

With Jane Monheit

On DVD[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 192. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Donald Harrison | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  3. ^ "For Art's Sake - Donald Harrison Quintet | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  4. ^ "Indian Blues - Donald Harrison | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  5. ^ "Nouveau Swing - Donald Harrison | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  6. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Donald Harrison". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  7. ^ Ratliff, Ben (6 March 1999). "A Fusion With Funk, Thoroughly Mixed". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Biggie Smalls: The Voice That Influenced A Generation". 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "Donald Harrison | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 September 2018.

External links[edit]