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About Lezlie Harrison
When considering the range of creative activities Ms. Lezlie Harrison has embarked on, one could easily be reminded of the classical folk tale of the five blind men who have encountered an elephant and are asked to describe it. In the ancient story, each man, unaware of the totality of the animal describes the part of its body they have come in contact with. For one, feeling the beast’s leg leads him to believe that an elephant is like a tree trunk, for another, holding its tail convinces him that an elephant is like a rope, the long smooth tusks tells yet another that the mammal resembles a plow, and on and on.
Likewise there are those that know Lezlie only from her years on stages acting in plays with The Negro Ensemble Company or at New York City’s Henry Street Settlement. Others might say “oh you mean the lady on the radio?” referring to her years on college radio at Amherst, on the country’s premier jazz station, WBGO, or as the nationally syndicated blues voice for Sirius Satellite radio. Still others might recall “Je la connais” if they were lucky enough to cross paths with Ms. Harrison during her years living in Paris where she modeled and did commercial voice work.
In New York City, Lezlie’s hometown, she has been known for decades as a co-founder of the culturally significant Jazz Gallery and as a mainstay on the music scene. While mainly seen as a beautiful, erudite and ineffably hip, friend and supporter of the same. She started to turn heads when, slowly, in choice situations, she began to open her mouth and let loose with that rich mahogany contralto voice nurtured in her grandfather’s North Carolina church. Many on the Greenwich Village, Brooklyn and Harlem Jazz scenes were pleasantly shocked. Why hadn’t we heard her sooner? Lezlie has a simple response; “I always loved singing but I was always intimidated by my friends” Those friends included jazz legends like - Abbey Lincoln, Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn and Betty Carter.
Lezlie Harrison harbors a strong sense of tradition, albeit a broad tradition that makes room not only for those legends that doubled as friends, but also for the legends she worshiped from afar. Such as the Soul and R&B icons she followed on radio and on those precious “Soul Train” Saturday mornings. She has harnessed all of her varied influences and is now ready (an important stage in any artist’s development) to document her first recording.
The Great American Soul Book, Vol.1 will feature the debut of some of Ms. Harrison’s own compositions along with songs written by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan. Jazz standards will preside alongside popular songs laced with gospel infusions and ballads that morph into funk excursions. All anchored by the core group Lezlie has been working with since 2005. Expect some appearances and instrumental arrangements from some very special guests who have been “chomping at the bit” for the opportunity.
The Great American Soul Book, Vol.1 will appear on Inner Circle Music, a unique artist produced label that is the brainchild of renowned saxophonist/composer/producer/educator Greg Osby.
Lezlie Harrison joined the JazzTimes community on Feb 24, 2011