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Donald Harrison & Quantum Leap: New York City, NY, September 20, 2012

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Donald Harrison & Quantum Leap
The Jazz Standard
New York City, New York
September 20, 2012

New Orleans-based saxophonist Donald Harrison kicked off the evening's first set with a shuffle-based groove, immediately starting with an improvised solo. The quintet, rounded out by pianist Zaccai Curtis, bassist Max Moran, drummer Joe Dyson and electric guitarist Detroit Brooks, sounded very tight, even though Brooks was not very audible at first. As the band members took their own individual moments, Harrison took over the congas. As the number came to a close, he explained that what the audience was listening to was a James Brown song, and then proceeded to demonstrate how he blended Brown's soul backbeat with an Art Blakey feel and some swing in order to come up with something completely new.

He followed that with a more traditional swing take on the George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin standard, "They Can't Take That Away From Me," traveling back the 1950s and smoky jazz clubs. The band swung hard, especially Brooks and Moran, who contributed extremely dexterous solos. The group returned to more adventurous material with "Young MJ," a funk-tinged original, written in memory of the late Michael Jackson, that Harrison described as "funky but also jazz"—with clear elements of Motown, but with a hard, jazz-steeped feel. The tune created a great environment for improvisation, and the band went into it wholeheartedly.

The band shifted gears completely and went back to material from Harrison's Quantum Leap(Fomp, 2012) with the challenging title track and its shifting tempos. Harrison closed with the New Orleans classic "Iko Iko," which featured guest percussionist Roman Diaz, who added a Caribbean flavor to the closing, which had the audience on its feet and singing along.

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