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Donald Harrison: Free to Be

Here’s a member of the thirty-something crew whose maturity is palpable and can be traced to what would appear to be an admirable self-sense of his artistry and growth arc. After the breakup of his first band, co-led with Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison’s visibility lessened a bit. He surfaced with a superb New Orleans-heritage session for Candid that yielded his own standard “Indian Blues,” neatly reprised here. Later he began working with Eddie Palmieri, a natural stopover given the historic connection between Louisiana and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Now Harrison’s perseverance and various apprenticeships have paid off in an artistry that is maturing quite nicely.

Here he works with a varied cast of intimates, including such notables as Palmieri for a cameo, fellow Palmieri mate and another who deserves wider exposure, trumpeter Brian Lynch, plus Christian McBride on bass, Mulgrew Miller on piano, guitarist Rodney Jones, and drummer Carl Allen among others. There is a fine sense of craft and programming, coupled with earnest playing, that permeates this disc. And mindful of the desire to make a “hit” in a true jazz sense, he delivers the hip and contemporary-without-yielding-to-commercialism inflected “nouveau swing,” not to mention his own rap on “Feelin’ Jazzy”, Baby, yet rest assured this is a true jazz date.

Originally Published