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The Survivor

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Album Review

Cultural critic Greil Marcus wrote a scathing essay at the end of the 1970s about the rampant overuse of the word "survivor" in modern life. Over 25 years on, musicians of a certain age arguably have more of a right to use the S-word, especially a saxophonist like Donald Harrison, who has stayed true to his own soul-jazz path since his early days as a sideman despite the fact that his brand of funk-influenced hard bop has rarely been the least bit fashionable, even among many jazz listeners. The Survivor is a timeless album, most of which sounds like it could have come from any point in Harrison's career. Yet it's no mere nostalgia kick, because underneath Harrison's sterling alto work, the rhythm section sounds fairly attuned to contemporary trends. "The Hook Up" in particular has a skittering, hip-hop-influenced vibe to John Lamkin's drums; the closing track takes it all the way, being a mash-up of Harrison playing the Duke Ellington standard "Caravan" over a turntablist and a sample of James Brown's iconic "Funky Drummer" beat, perhaps the most-used sample in hip-hop history. The reason this track works in the context of more standard Harrison fare as the gentle original ballad "Sincerely Yours," rather than sounding like a stab at cultural relevance from an aging player, is that funk in all its forms has been at the root of not only Harrison's own music, but of this particular jazz path since the days of Miles Davis' "Walkin'" back in the early '50s. "Survivor" may still be overstating the case a bit, but The Survivor shows that far from being an esoteric form for aesthetic snobs and old folks, Harrison's music has grown along a parallel path to more familiar styles, and moves easily back and forth between them.

Biography

Born: June 23, 1960 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Donald Harrison, Jr. (who is also known as Big Chief Donald Harrison of Congo Nation) is a celebrated jazz saxophonist, composer, and educator who resides both in New Orleans and New York City. Born in New Orleans on June 23, 1960, Harrison is the son of the late Donald Harrison, Sr., a legendary New Orleans folklorist and, during his lifetime, the Big Chief of four different NOLA tribes. The younger Harrison began his education at the prestigious New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and studied...
Full bio
The Survivor, Donald Harrison
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  • $8.91
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: May 09, 2006

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