Joel Harrison is one of the first artists to have bridged the worlds of jazz, classical, Americana, and traditions from India and Africa. Born in Washington D.C. the guitarist, composer, arranger, lyricist, vocalist and songwriter began his search for new sounds in the early 1980’s with stints in Boston and the Bay Area. Named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2010, Harrison has long been recognized as a risk taker, someone who never stands still. He has blossomed from mentorships with Joan Tower, Ali Akbar Khan, W.A. Mathieu, and Charlie Banacos into one of the most respected artists of his generation. The core of his multifarious projects is heart, soul, and surprise. What matters most to this composer is moving the listener.
Harrison is a two-time winner of the Jazz Composer’s Alliance Composition Competition, and has received support and awards from Chamber Music America, Meet the Composer, the Flagler Cary Trust, NYSCA, New Music USA, and the Jerome Foundation. He has released 17 cds since 1995 as a leader, and has appeared high up on the “Rising Star” Downbeat Magazine poll for many years.
Harrison has composed a number of non-improvised works as well, whether for orchestra, string quartet, solo cello, or percussion, including the PASIC award-winning marimba solo Fear of Silence. He is the founder and administrator of the Alternative Guitar Summit, a yearly festival devoted to new and unusual guitar music. Pat Metheny called the Summit “one of the most interesting and distinguished forums for guitar on the planet.”
Notable releases include Free Country feat. Norah Jones and David Binney, Infinite Possibility (jazz orchestra), String Choir– Music of Paul Motian, , and Search feat. Donny McCaslin. Harrison’s cds include some of the greatest musicians alive whether on strings, bassoon, saxophones, brass, or percussion. The New York Times called him “protean” and “brilliant, ” while the New Orleans Times Picayune said “Along with Scofield, Metheny, and Frisell Harrison has created a new blueprint for jazz.”
The latest release, due in May on Whirlwind recordings, is a stunning collection of original songs and lyrics entitled The Other River. The band includes Glenn Patscha (Roseanne Cash, Marc Cohen), and Byron Isaacs (The Lumineers). The results stream through multiple American traditions, by turns gorgeous, stark, psychedelic and bluesy, buoyant and funny, moody and surreal.