Mardi Gras Music – Donald Harrison, Jr.

Throw together a few New Orleans musical stalwarts, run through several standards, and then “Indians, here they come!”  Top it off with a couple of Mardi Gras Indians fronting the band doing Iko-Iko and Hey, Pocky Way and it’s an excellent way to celebrate the Carnival season. Donald Harrison, Jr. band It ain’t Nouveau Swing, but it was pretty darn good.

The occasion was the re-scheduled Donald Harrison, Jr. concert at the U.S. Mint – maybe on a more apropos date now that it’s deeper into Carnival.  It’s always a treat to hear Harrison and the space on the third floor of the Mint is just about perfect – excellent acoustics and audio, a medium-sized space that feels intimate, and good sight lines pretty much from anywhere.Donald Harrison, Jr. without Indians

For those not familiar with Harrison, he’s a world-class jazz alto saxophonist with a very eclectic style and deep (deep!) ties to our local Mardi Gras Indian culture.  His father (Sr.) was the chief of the Guardians of the Flame.  Not only is it not a surprise that we would be seeing some Indians at a New Orleans based concert of his, it probably would’ve been a disappointment if they had not shown up.

His Nouveau Swing brand is terrific, mixing “modern dance music like r&b, hip-hop, soul, rock, and combin{ing} jazz with Afro-New Orleans traditional music”.

The Harrison’s family and their tradition were the inspiration for a pair of father and son characters on the recently concluded HBO’s TremeAlbert Lambreaux, chief of the Guardians of the Flame, and Delmond Lambreaux, his jazz trumpet playing son.  As you may have noticed, the Mardi Gras Indian tribe identified in the show is the same as that of the Harrisons.  It’s not a coincidence.  They modelled the Lambreaux family after the Harrisons.  Donald Harrison, Jr. even appears as a sideman on the show in Delmond Lambreaux’s band!

Come join us on the “Jazz On The Rocks” tour and maybe we’ll explore a little more of Harrison in the larger context of jazz from New Orleans.