Joel Harrison

Joel Harrison’s musical journey is unlike any other in modern music. Harrison is a guitarist, composer, arranger and vocalist. He also acts as songwriter and bandleader. His music combines influences from jazz, classical rock, country, rock, world music, and other genres. His rich sound is equally at home in jazz clubs as concert halls, and even the occasional dive bar. It would be best to refer to Harrison’s home-base jazz. This descriptor can adapt to suit a wide range of styles and approaches. He draws inspiration from music that is often denied entry to jazz consciousness. He says, “Ultimately you’re trying to reach great music.” Sometimes it is best to let people do their thing, but sometimes it is best to record everything. It’s as simple as that. Harrison’s success is evident in the awards he has received. He was named a Guggenheim Fellow for 2010, and is a two time winner of the Jazz Composer’s Alliance Composition Competition. He has also received grants from Chamber Music America. Meet the Composer. The Flagler Cary Trust. NYSCA. And the Jerome Foundation. Harrison grew up in Washington D.C. in the 1960s and was drawn to the innovative guitarists of that era, like John McLaughlin and Jimi Hendrix. After graduating from Bard College in his twenties Harrison embarked on what he describes as the “classic Jack Kerouac Search for America”: hitchhiking across America and exploring the diverse diversity between its coasts. “I wanted this country to be understood.” I admit that I was a bit naive but the search resonates in my music. His journey has seen disparate genres come together in unexpected ways. His Free Country Ensemble, which was released on German label ACT, reimagines Appalachian country music. Meanwhile, his Fojoto Trio, featuring banjo player Tony Trischka, and West African kora player Fodaymusa Suso, ties American roots music to traditional African music. Anupam Shobhakar, a young sarod master, has launched Skin and Steel to explore Indian music, jazz, and American roots. He is a skilled arranger and has explored the works of other composers, including George Harrison, Beatles guitarist (Highnote), and Paul Motian, legendary drummer, whose repertoire Harrison arranges to string quartet and two instruments on his new CD String Choir (Sunnyside). Harrison views the source material from a different perspective. It is more of a recomposition than an arrangement. Harrison has been influenced by his most influential mentors. Harrison has studied western classical music and Hindustani music with Ali Akbar Khan. He also studied jazz with Charlie Banacos. Ran Blake and Mathieu. The most striking examples of Harrison’s own experiments in such areas can be found on Range of Motion, Koch Jazz, 1997 and The Wheel (Intuition 2008.) These albums bridge Harrison’s jazz and classical interests. The first was composed for an octet of woodwinds with Paul McCandless and Paul Hanson, while the latter incorporates Harrison’s country and international music influences. It replaces the wind instruments with a string quartet featuring violinists Todd Reynolds, Christian Howes, Caleb Burhans and cellist Wendy Sutter. Life Force is a collection for cello and violin by Wendy Sutter, Tim Fain and Wendy Burhans on Philip Glass’ Orange Mountain Music label. It also includes a solo for marimba that won the first prize in the Percussive Arts Society’s worldwide competition. Harrison’s latest project, Singularity uses the techniques of contemporary classical composers to create compositions for a septet consisting of some of the best instrumentalists in modern jazz. Christian Howes (violin), Donny Mcclaslin (saxophone), Dana Leong [cello], Gary Versace [piano], Stephan Crump] and Clarence Penn (“drums”) join Harrison’s impressive roster of collaborators that includes Norah Jones (cello), Dave Liebman (piano), Jamey Haddad (percussion), Jamey Redman (bass), and Nels Cline (norah Jones), Dewey Redman (drums), Jameyhaddad, Jamey McCaslin, Jamey McCaslin] and Jamey haddad, Jamey), Jamey), Jamey, Jamey), Jamey, Jamey, Gary Crump (saxophone), Dewey Redman. from

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