Donald Harrison


Donald Harrison Jr. (born June 23, 1960) is an American jazz saxophonist from New Orleans, Louisiana.


Harrison studied at Southern University and Berklee College of Music. He played with Roy Haynes, Jack McDuff, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and Don Pullen in the 1980s. He also played with the re-formed Headhunters band in the 1990s. In 1991 he recorded Indian Blues which captured the sound and culture of Congo Square in a jazz context. In 1994 Harrison created the "Nouveau Swing" style of jazz, which merges the swing beat with today's dance music.

Harrison also performs in the smooth jazz genre. His group, Donald Harrison Electric Band, has recorded popular radio hits and have charted in the top ten of Billboard magazine. He performs as a producer, singer and rapper in the traditional Afro-New Orleans culture and hiphop genres with his group, The New Sounds of Mardi Gras. The group, which has recorded two albums, was started in 2001 and has made appearances worldwide. Harrison is the Big Chief of the Congo Nation Afro-New Orleans Cultural Group, which keeps alive the secret traditions of Congo Square. He also writes for orchestras.

Harrison was chosen as the "person of the year" by Jazziz magazine in January 2007. His latest albums, 3D Vols. I, II, and III, feature him in three different musical genres. On Vol. I he writes, plays, and produces music in the smooth jazz, and R&B style. On Vol. II he writes, produces and plays in the classic jazz style. On Vol. III he writes plays and produces in the hiphop genre.

In 2016 Harrison recorded his first orchestral work with The Moscow Symphony Orchestra. He is a natural composer because he amazingly composes and orchestrates classical orchestral music with out ever taking any classes in writing or orchestrating for symphonic orchestra. He followed up the piece for the MSO by writing new classical orchestral works for the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, The New York Chamber Orchestra and The Jalapa Symphony Orchestra in 2017.

Harrison has nurtured a number of young musicians including the young Grammy-nominated trumpeter Christian Scott (Harrison's nephew), as well as Mark Whitfield, Cyrus Chestnut, Christian McBride, and The Notorious B.I.G. Harrison was featured in Spike Lee's HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke, and has appeared as himself in 11 episodes of HBO's Treme in which the characters Albert and Delmond Lambreaux are based on his life.


As leader

  • 1990: Full Circle (Sweet Basil)
  • 1990: For Art's Sake [live] (Candid)
  • 1991: Indian Blues (Candid) -with Dr. John
  • 1991: New Orleans Gumbo (Candid) -with Dr. John; rel. 2013
  • 1993: Message: The Art of Blakey (Evidence) -with Brian Lynch, Robin Eubanks, Ralph Moore, Geoffrey Keezer, Peter Washington, Carl Allen
  • 1994: The Power of Cool (CTI)
  • 1996: Nouveau Swing (Impulse!)
  • 1998: Free To Be (Impulse!)
  • 2000: Spirits of Congo Square (Candid)
  • 2001: Real Life Stories (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2001: Kind of New (Candid) -with Christian Scott
  • 2002: Heroes (Nagel Heyer) -with Ron Carter, Billy Cobham; rel. 2004
  • 2002: Free Style (Nagel Heyer) rel. 2005
  • 2003: Paradise Found (Fomp) -with Christian Scott
  • 2004: The Survivor (Nagel Heyer) -with Mulgrew Miller; rel. 2006
  • 2005: New York Cool: Live at The Blue Note (Half Note) -with Ron Carter, Billy Cobham
  • 2006: 3D, Vol. 1 [smooth jazz/urban rhythm & blues/funk] (Fomp) -with Chris Botti, Chuck Loeb
  • 200?: 3D, Vol. 2 [classic jazz] (Fomp)
  • 200?: 3D, Vol. 3 [hip-hop] (Fomp)
  • 2008: The Chosen (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2009: The Ballads (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2009: The Burners (Nagel Heyer)
  • 2009: Two of A Kind (Nagel Heyer) -with Christian Scott
  • 2010: Quantum Leap (Fomp)
  • 2011: This Is Jazz: Live at The Blue Note (Half Note) -with Ron Carter, Billy Cobham
  • 201?: The New Sounds of Mardi Gras, Vol. 1
  • 201?: The New Sounds of Mardi Gras, Vol. 2

As co-leader with Terence Blanchard

  • 1983: New York Second Line (Concord)
  • 1984: Discernment (Concord)
  • 1986: Nascence (Columbia)
  • 1986: Eric Dolphy & Booker Little Remembered Live At Sweet Basil, Vol. 1 (Evidence)
  • 1986: Fire Waltz: Eric Dolphy & Booker Little Remembered Live At Sweet Basil, Vol. 2 (Evidence)
  • 1987: Crystal Stair (Columbia)
  • 1988: Black Pearl (Columbia)

As sideman

With Art Blakey

  • Oh-By the Way (Timeless, 1982)
  • New York Scene (Concord, 1984)
  • Blue Night (Timeless, 1985)
  • New Year's Eve At Sweet Basil (Evidence, 1985)

With Joanne Brackeen

  • Turnaround (Evidence, 1992)

With The Headhunters

  • Evolution Revolution (Basin Street, 2003)

With Don Pullen

  • The Sixth Sense (Black Saint, 1985)

With Dr. Lonnie Smith

  • Rise Up! (Palmetto, 2008)

With Esperanza Spalding

  • Esperanza (Heads Up, 2008)


  • Live -with Clark Terry
  • Live At The Supper Club -with Lena Horne

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