NEA Jazz Master Big Chief Donald Harrison - 'Congo Square Suite'

The Congo Square Suite, composed by NEA Jazz Master Big Chief Donald Harrison, is a stunning musical masterpiece that pays tribute to the rich cultural heritage of Afro New Orleans music. The suite is a unique blend of orchestral classical music, modern jazz, and the various musical genres that have been derived from the legendary Congo Square. The suite is divided into multiple movements, each one exploring different facets of the complex and diverse musical traditions that have evolved in the region over the centuries. From the hypnotic rhythms of the African drums to the soulful melodies of the brass instruments, the Congo Square Suite is a celebration of the rich and vibrant musical history of New Orleans.

As the initial notes of the 'Congo Square Suite' reverberate through the air, a captivating world of traditional African drums and percussion come to life, transporting listeners to the vibrant streets of historic Congo Square. This opening movement serves as a welcoming invitation, enticing listeners to embark on a musical journey of unparalleled variety and complexity. With each beat of the drum, a deep, raw energy is unleashed, summoning the voices of those who have gathered for centuries to celebrate the enduring force of Afro New Orleans music. The rhythm is both primal and sophisticated, weaving together a rich tapestry of cultural influences that are as diverse as they are compelling. It is a powerful and respectful homage to the history and heritage of the people and the place that inspired it, and a testament to the enduring power of music to connect us all.

The symphony that ushers in this classical movement piece is a sublime demonstration of orchestral mastery. From the first note to the final chord, its seamless and hypnotic runtime grips the listener's attention with a magnetic force. The performance of the skilled orchestra is a work of art in itself, flawlessly executing the intricate layers of melody that flow like a river. The movement has a vivid storytelling personality that evokes a myriad of emotions through its captivating melodies. The string and brass sections blend together with effortless grace, creating a spacious and dynamic ambience that enthralls the listener in its mesmerising embrace. The woodwind section adds an extra layer of richness to the already complex and textured sound, elevating the music to a level of sheer grandeur. This breathtaking work of art is a testament to the power and beauty of classical music, showcasing the depths of human creativity and imagination at their very finest.

As the symphony progresses, the orchestra weaves a tapestry of sound that tells a story in its own right. The peaks and valleys of the melody mirror the ebbs and flows of life, evoking moments of joy, sorrow, and everything in between. The sheer intricacy of the composition is a showcase of the composer's skill, as each instrument plays its part in creating a harmonious whole that transcends the sum of its parts. The power of classical music lies in its ability to stir the soul and ignite the imagination, and this piece is no exception. As the final notes fade away, the listener is left with a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of human creativity, and the limitless potential of the art form itself.

As the story evolves, it seamlessly transforms into another movement that incorporates the intoxicating sounds of blues. The theme that was introduced in the previous movement is carried forward, as the legendary saxophone and the piano join forces to create a sonic landscape that is both haunting and evocative. The rhythm section takes centre stage, pulsing like a heartbeat that drives the piece forward and unleashes a dazzling array of solos performed by each instrument. The resulting fusion of sound is a true work of art, imbued with a sense of vitality and energy that is truly awe-inspiring. As the musicians pour their hearts and souls into their solos, the listener is transported to another realm.

Be sure to mark your calendar for the release of NEA Jazz Master Big Chief Donald Harrison's 'Congo Square Suite' on April 28th, 2023, as it is a must-listen.

NEA Jazz Master Big Chief Donald Harrison - 'Congo Square Suite'

About NEA Jazz Master Big Chief Donald Harrison:

'2022 NEA Jazz Master Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. is a musician/composer dedicated to mastering every era of jazz, soul, and funk and composing orchestral classical music. He has been called a "One man music festival" because his performances cover the history of American music and show that is the basis for his innovations. According to geniuses Eddie Palmieri, Nicholas Payton, Carl Allen, and Mike Clark, he is a genius.  

In 2021 Harrison received an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College. He appeared as an actor in nine episodes of "Treme," where director David Simon created two characters to portray how Harrison innovated music. He was an actor and musician in director Jonathan Demme's film "Rachel Getting Married and Marvel's "Luke Cage." He played himself in Spike Lee's historic HBO documentary "When The Levees Broke," and Netflix’s documentary “I Got A Story To Tell,” about The Notorious BIG. 
Harrison is the recognized Big Chief of Congo Square in Afro-New Orleans culture, where he keeps alive one of the root contributors cultures to Traditional jazz. Harrison was made a Chief in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa, and is the only major jazz artist who is Chief on two continents. 
Harrison honed his craft by playing with Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, Eddie Palmieri, Dr. John, Lena Horne, Dr. Eddie Henderson, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Chuck Loeb, The Headhunters, hip-hop greats Digable Planets, Guru's Jazzmatazz, The Notorious BIG, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and over 200 jazz master innovators of every era and style. He has also played with the master innovators of blues, funk, soul, hip-hop, classical, and New Orleans music.  
He has innovated three influential jazz styles. In 1979, at nineteen, Harrison brought a modern jazz twist to New Orlean's second-line music. By the mid-80s, he created "Nouveau Swing," a concept that blends classic jazz with hip-hop, funk, and soul music. In the '90s, Harrison made smooth jazz hits and began exploring quantum music in 2000. He began composing and orchestrating classical music for symphonic orchestras in 2013. Harrison also mentored diverse artists Christian Scott, Johnathon Batiste, Esperanza Spaulding, Trombone Shorty, multiple Grammy-winning platinum hip-hop producer Deezle, and The Notorious Big. Jonathon Batiste say's, "I consider Donald Harrison one of the greatest teachers of the last fifty years because he teaches all the music."
In 2023, Harrison will perform, release his multiverse compositions, and work in a new "Quantum Improvisation" concept with saxophonist and premier Quantum Theorist Stephon Alexander. The new exciting band features Brian Richburg on drums, Dan Kaufman on piano, and Nori Nariatsu on bass. They are being called the greatest group in terms of understanding and playing the history of jazz and moving it into new directions. People in the audiences are saying they experienced the greatest musical performance ever, and that the beauty of the music made them cry. Harrison is also set to release his classical orchestral composition, "Congo Square," and his innovative multiverse music single “The Magic Touch.” He is quietly working to complete software for his new patented music recording invention. Harrison's diligence and talent have led his group to develop into one of music's must-see aggregations.'