Guitarist, composer, arranger, lyricist, writer, educator, and vocalist Joel Harrison has “created a new blueprint for jazz” (New Orleans Times-Picayune). A Guggenheim Fellow (2010) whose compositions have been commissioned by Chamber Music America, Meet the Composer, New Music USA, the Jerome Foundation, NYSCA, and the Mary Flagler Cary Trust, Harrison is a two-time winner of the Jazz Composers Alliance Composition Competition and has appeared repeatedly on DownBeat Magazine’s “Rising Star” poll.
His twenty-two releases as a leader showcase his prowess as a shapeshifting composer, with works for orchestra, string quartet, solo cello, and percussion as well as the PASIC award-winning marimba solo Fear of Silence. Notable releases include Free Country, featuring Norah Jones and David Binney; the recent America at War for jazz orchestra; String Choir: The Music of Paul Motian; and Search, featuring Donny McCaslin. His ever-surprising body of work seamlessly connects multiple American traditions. Harrison’s music may be founded on jazz but veers into classical, rock, country, and all manner of American roots music. Succinctly described by the New York Times as “protean… brilliant,” he is also an active film composer, having worked on the Oscar-nominated Traffic Stop and the Sundance awardee Southern Comfort.
A former student of Jimmy Wyble and Mick Goodrick, Harrison is the founder and director of the Alternative Guitar Summit, a yearly festival devoted to new and unusual guitar music. The festival has featured such artists as Fred Frith, Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, and Pat Metheny, who has called the Summit “one of the most interesting and distinguished forums for guitar on the planet.”