Guitarist, composer, arranger, lyricist, vocalist and songwriter Joel Harrison has “created a new blueprint for jazz.” (New Orleans Times Picayune.) A Guggenheim Fellow (2010), and Chamber Music America, Meet the Composer, New Music USA, Jerome Foundation, NYSCA and Flagler Cary Trust commissioned composer, Harrison is a two-time winner of the Jazz Composer’s Alliance Composition Competition, and has appeared on the “Rising Star” Downbeat Magazine poll for many years.
His 20 releases as a leader showcase his prowess as a shapeshifting composer, including works for orchestra, string quartet, solo cello, and percussion, including the PASIC award-winning marimba solo Fear of Silence. Notable releases include Free Country featuring Norah Jones and David Binney, Infinite Possibility (for jazz orchestra), String Choir– Music of Paul Motian, and Search feat. Donny McCaslin. His buoyant, heartfelt, ever-surprising body of work seamlessly connects multiple American traditions. The most recent release, Still Point: Turning World (Whirlwind), featuring Ben Wendel, Dan Weiss, and Anupam Shohakar, highlights Harrison’s unique ability to shape sound from disparate sources, in this case jazz, Indian music from north and south, and classical percussion. Next up in April, 2020 will be Harrison’s second large ensemble record on the Sunnyside label entitled America at War, an 18 piece band featuring Ingrid Jensen, Jon Irabagon, and others. Harrison’s palette seems inexhaustible, founded in jazz but veering across the globe, into classical, rock, country, and all manner of American roots music. He was succinctly described by the New York Times, as “Protean…brilliant.”
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, and Julian Lage. Pat Metheny himself has called the Summit, “one of the most interesting and distinguished forums for guitar on the planet.”
He is also an active film composer, having worked on the Oscar nominated Traffic Stop, and Sundance awardee Southern Comfort.