Donald Harrison was born in New Orleans in 1960 and grew up in a home environment saturated with the city’s traditional brass bands, afro-new Orleans culture, modern jazz, R&B, funk, classical, world and dance music. His connection to New Orleans’ roots was deepened by his father, a Big Chief, in a new American style of African culture developed in New Orleans. The culture is an offshoot culture of Congo Square, one of the only known places in North America where Africans openly participated in their culture in the 18th and 19th centuries and still participate in it throughout the city. Donald became the Big Chief of The Congo Square Nation Afro-New Orleans cultural group in 1999 and coined the term Afro-New Orleans to describe his culture. He designed and built New Orleans’ first cultural attire to merge African designs with Afro-New Orleans style cultural designs.
Harrison created “Nouveau Swing,” a style off jazz that merges it with modern dance music like R&B, Hip-Hop, Soul and Rock. Over twenty years ago, he also combined jazz with Afro-New Orleans traditional music on his critically acclaimed and influential albums “Indian Blues” in 1991 and “Spirits of Congo Square” in 2000. These records deepened his commitment to maintaining the offshoot rituals, call and response chants and drumming as well as his determination to keep traditional to modern jazz music alive for the next generation.
Some of his awards include: two of France’s “Grand Prix du Disque”, Switzerland’s “The Ascona Award”, Japan’s Swing Journal “Alto Saxophonist of the Year,” The Jazz Journalist Association’s “A List Award,” 2012 New Orleans Civic Award, 2007 Jazziz Magazine’s “Person of the Year,” the Big Easy Music Awards “Ambassador of Music” and a Down Beat Magazine’s Alto Saxophone Poll Winner. He was also a 2006 Resident at William and Mary College, a 1995 “Meet The Composer” recipient and a 2012 Grammy nominee.