Donald Harrison Live At The Jazz Standard

Donald Harrison 1Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison – also known as Big Chief of the Congo Square Nation – brought progressive jazz and the funk, groove and lilting spirit of New Orleans roots music to Jazz Standard last night in a throw down of epic proportions. His multi-generational band, featuring veteran Detroit Brooks on guitar and rising stars Conun Pappas on piano (sitting in for Zaccai Curtis), Max Moran on bass, Joe Dyson on drums – along with guest artist trombonist and shell player Steve Turre – took the audience on a soulful, toe-tapping journey that begged the question, “Where’s the dance floor?”

The set took flight with Harrison’s jazz-funk composition, “Free to Be,” followed by an entertaining – and highly elucidating demonstration of how he took the bass line of a James Brown song and then overlaid a swing rhythm on drums and piano to create the jazzy yet danceable (as he proved on stage) hybrid that he calls “Nouveau Swing.” Harrison then shifted to the yearning beauty of “Lover Man,” a showcase for Steve Turre’s crisp “bop” articulation and warm balladry. From there, the band moved seamlessly into an interpretation of the Ray Noble gem, “Cherokee” – AKA Indian Love Song – offering the audience a rare opportunity to observe a brilliant interchange between Harrison and Turre – not merely as saxophonist and trombonist – but two acolytes of the school of Art Blakey trading licks and strutting their stuff.

Harrison’s New Orleans youngsters had a chance to show off their expertise on sizzling versions of the Mardi Gras Indian standard “Cissy Strut” and the Meters’ “Hey Pockey Way.” Pianist Conun Pappas maintained a shimmying filigree on piano in counterpoint to Max Moran’s sensuous and grinding groove on bass; Joe Dyson brought down the house with a ferocious drum solo that channeled Baby Dodds and Roy Haynes simultaneously.

Throughout it all, Harrison sang, chanted, moved, grooved and most of all blew into being a new chapter of jazz history with beautiful music and dangerous rhythm that merges r&b, hip-hop, soul and the traditional chants and drumming of Afro-New Orleans with modern jazz. Kudos to Jazz Standard for bringing Harrison & company to a New York audience – here’s hoping he comes back soon.

Tomás Peña
Tomás Peña
A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

More from author

Related posts


Featured Posts

Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums: A Film by Soren Sorensen

Anyone approaching this film about the iconic Cuban composer and pianist Omar Sosa, by the award-winning filmmaker Soren Sorensen will be almost immediately struck...

Danilo Pérez featuring The Global Messengers: Crisálida

Danilo Pérez began forming his worldview - and aligning his music to it - ever since he came under the sphere of influence of...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part II)

Miguelo Valdés & The New Messengers Of Feeling Miguel Valdés, or “Miguelo”, as he has since become known, was born in the province of La...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part I)

Preamble Within the current renaissance of popular Cuban music, coupled with the seemingly eternal presence of its first cousin American Jazz, we are once again...

In Conversation with Carlos Cippelletti

Pianist, composer and arranger Carlos Cippelletti, is a promising young Spanish, Franco-Cuban artist from the last generation of Afro-Cuban jazz musicians born outside the...

Celebrating Jane Bunnett: Spirits of Havana’s 30th Anniversary

After dark they gather, the spirits of Havana. Is that a ghostly, but fatback-toned rapping down in the barrio where the great composer and...

Piazzolla Cien Años: Lord of the Tango@100

There is a now famous photograph of the great Ástor Piazzolla that is iconic for so many reasons. Chief among them is the manner...

Omara Portuondo, Multifaceted Gem of Cuban Music

My moon app announces that in 14 hours the Supermoon of May will be here. During a full moon I often get inspired to...

Ray Barretto · Barretto Power

Barretto Power: A Celebratory Reissue on its 50th Anniversary It was 1970 when Fania Records released Barretto Power, one of a series of seminal albums...

El Gran Fellové: Part 3- When my Parents…

When my parents bought their home in 1968, Sunset Beach was just another sleepy little beach town It spanned about one mile in length, sandwiched...

Join our mailing list

Participate in contests, giveaways and more