Tap the mind of your average music listener, and the mention of New Orleans music would probably yield images of Dixieland bands, the Neville Brothers, or some inane version of "When the Saints Go Marching In." Truth be told, there is a diversity of styles that goes beyond those emblematic stereotypes. Saxophonist Donald Harrison knows this, and as a result, he's able to deliver a tasty mix of his native New Orleans influences in an acoustic-jazz context. His alto sound contains ample doses of Cannonball Adderley and Johnny Hodges, paired with a hard bop flair that came from his post-grad studies with such jazz leaders as Ellis Marsalis, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, and Jack McDuff.
With an ear toward the current generation and more recent developments, Harrison has crafted his own contemporary mélange, which he's termed "nouveau swing," taking grooves from funk, Jamaican dancehall, hip-hop, Caribbean soca, gospel, and a bevy of other genres. The fourth and most recent document of Harrison's vision is Real Life Stories (Nagel-Heyer), a broad, all-encompassing album. "You don't exclude, you include, because jazz wouldn't be here if people didn't include," Harrison explains. "The beauty of jazz is that you can find the things that are truly you, tell a story, and people can be touched by it."