Projects

TAILGATERS TALES

A small ensemble consisting of Bass, Drums, Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals and Trombone melding intricate composition driven by imaginative improvisation. Tailgaters Tales is a vehicle focusing on the Trombone where concept, composition and improvisation intersect in the gray area and become one. This is Craig’s core group and an outlet for him as an improviser and composer to stretch out and tell musical stories from a trombone place.

I want every voice heard. I want to touch on tradition but keep the sounds in constant transition. That way I can give the improvisers room enough to tell their own personal stories.”

Harris gets a big, fat sound out of the trombone, and plays it with better than average facility and deeper than average feeling. And his compositions are about what you’d expect from a first-rate trombonist: alternately boisterous and sentimental, but never half-hearted, never dull.”

Peter Keepnews, New York Post


NATION OF IMAGINATION

Nation of Imagination comprises 3 Vocalists, 3 Percussionists, Bass, Keyboards, Guitar and Trombone to bring the world of music and culture together in a unified sound featuring voices and drums. Conceived as a collaboration of the creativity and high level of musicianship of artists from all over the world, with its groove-oriented and infectious rhythms, Nation of Imagination is the intersection where body and brain synchronize; it’s the closest Craig gets to a party band.

Nation of Imagination “travels over so much musical terrain that it’s almost mind-blowing.” Weaving its way through musical domains as divergent as Jazz, Traditional Music, Soul, Rap or Reggae, it is clearly a unique creation.

Nation of Imagination is the most ambitious and legitimate project of [Craig’s] career. Without hesitating to draw on his black heritage through blues, bop and JB-style soul, he has gathered together all the African American music that he has inherited and combined it with the roots of the rest of the world. His is a musical nation that transcends all frontiers, all races and all languages. We’re left with pure harmonious music, which never ceases to catch us unawares.”

Sir Ali, Nova Magazine (Europe)


SLIDE RIDE

The Trombone quartet cooperative of Ray Anderson, Art Baron, Craig Harris, and Earl McIntyre brings together four of the most facile, daring, innovative and well regarded trombonists in modern jazz. The roles of melody, harmony and rhythm are shared by each member of the group, creating a ritual-like experience. This distribution of roles features each player as an accompanist and a soloist; often you can hear in the music the roles becoming so integrated that improvised passages and notated passages become one.

The musical ideas shifting from player to player (yet ever so different) unifies and sounds much larger than four trombones while at the same time retaining an intimate quality, opening the listener’s mind to the many possibilities of using all the sides of the trombone’s slides.

Slide Ride (the album and the group), an invitation to what the trombone has become: your ticket to musical worlds, musical colors, musical feelings, with jazz the front door through. In other words, and in one package, it ain’t just about Elephant shrieks, swing rhythms, marches, or furrowed brows anymore. It’s all – and more – of the above.”

John Ephland, Down Beat


BROWN BUTTERFLY

A multi-media work based on the legacy and exquisite physical gestures of Muhammad Ali featuring 6 Dancers, Trumpet, Saxophone, Keyboards, Bass, 2 Drums, and Trombone. “Brown Butterfly” celebrates the essence and spirit of Muhammad Ali through contemporary live music and dance within the context of ground-breaking multi-media technology. The musical composition transposes Ali’s physical language into a rich, vibrant, notated score. Rhythms shadow his footwork, melodies sing the song of his jab, and harmonies display the power of his combinations. It is Ali the dancer, the boxer, the man, who motivated and inspired Craig to create the score for “Brown Butterfly”, which defines the musical color along with the “sound of motion” that brings Ali’s journey into a dance theater environment.

Muhammad Ali’s persona has influenced my music through his grace, power, and wisdom. With “Brown Butterfly” you get everything at once. We want it to come together in your mind, so you subconsciously experience Ali in all his complicated glory.”

Craig Harris, Marlies Yearby and Aaron Davis Hall took three years to create “Brown Butterfly” but the monumental production, performed on Saturday night at the hall at City College, is well worth the wait. Ms. Yearby’s choreography establishes the gut-level fundamentals of Mr. Ali’s life: move fast and endure being “out there by yourself” as Ms. Yearby put it in a recent interview. Mr. Harris is known for his precise and sensitive melding of musical styles. His score is a robust wonder, a rainbow tissue of world music, jazz, blues and popular period music.”

Jennifer Dunning, New York Times


GOD’S TROMBONES

 A music-theatre work, featuring 4 Vocalists, Keyboards, Drums, Tuba, Euphonium, and 4 Trombones, which reinterprets and reinvigorates James Weldon Johnson’s 1927 classic collection of poems based on the inspirational sermons of Negro preachers. Craig looks to Johnson’s poems for the stimulus to produce a musical interpretation of the rhythm and cadence that Johnson found in the original sermons yet Craig’s “God’s Trombones” moves beyond the sectarian roots of the sermons to the realm of the spirit that underlies all religious experience.

“God’s Trombones” brings Johnson’s poems, and the unique preaching style they preserve, to life. It is a work that is operatic in scale, with the pitch, melody and harmony serving as partners as Craig’s composition considers the original poems through the intersection of Sound (specifically the trombone shout form), Word (the text and its recitation) and Movement (the choreography and its presentation).

Filled with uninhibited swing and restrained melancholy, the music excited and stirred the sold-out house with emotion not often felt outside of houses of worship. The sheer passion of each member of the ensemble was so powerful as to draw the audience deeply into their world, so that by the end the crowd became part of the show, the joyous congregation to which the music preached.”

Russ Musto, All About Jazz – New York


TRIHARLENIUM

A sound portrait and tribute to Harlem comprising Nation of Imagination (3 Vocalists, 3 Percussionists, Bass, Keyboards, Guitar and Trombone) augmented by a big band (13 horns) and a drum choir (5 African Sabar drummers). “TriHarLenium” chronicles the stories and reflects the heartbeat, soul and rhythm of the people of Harlem from 1976 – 2006 with music and photography depicting the transition of the community. Craig has woven artistic, historic, generational, and cultural threads together to create a 30-year musical time capsule of Harlem.Craig wanted to document the basic elements of Harlem while it’s still in transition.

The neighborhood is changing right before my eyes. Harlem is getting ready to become a different community and it will not be a predominantly African American community, and I wanted to document this before it changed. There’s a lot of coverage of Harlem during the Renaissance and Civil Rights Movement, but we don’t discuss the present. My time is 1976 to the future. That is the story I want to tell.”

Craig Harris’s TriHarLenium shows us that we are in the midst of some sort of Harlem Renaissance right now. We don’t have to be nostalgic about times past, because this composition, this change, places us in a period of rich cultural productivity. The TriHarLenium maintains our momentum as a culture; it remembers Harlem as a beloved community; it is a message from one of our artists that reminds us to acknowledge what is special about this place. And it answers the challenge to tell the truth, despite this period of doubt.”

Professor Bob O’Meally, Columbia University Center for Jazz Studies


SOULS WITHIN THE VEIL

A master work composed for 4 Saxophones, 2 Trumpets, 2 Percussionists, Bass and Trombone. “Souls Within the Veil” commemorates the centennial of W. E. B. Du Bois’ groundbreaking and classic 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk. The compositional craft displayed by Du Bois has inspired Craig to compose a musical score that attempts to capture Souls’ timeless social commentary, where Du Bois fuses the experience of enslaved people and the English language into a state of Double Consciousness, modulating between social issues of the past-present. Examining the text through the lens of its final chapter, Craig presents a work composed for ten souls that allow them to combine improvisation and composition to the place where they become one.

That state of Double Consciousness is where I navigate the shadows of the Veil harmonically, rhythmically, and melodically with a music created within the Veil but of a continuum that predates the Veil by centuries. A music Du Bois refers to as “the most beautiful expression born this side of the seas.” After one hundred years the book sets a high standard for those who aspire to compose, regardless of the medium in which they choose to express themselves.”

Souls Within the Veil, a beauty of an extended work spread over two discs and inspired by a close reading of W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folks. The all-star front line reads like a David Murray big-band reunion … all are hot … While allowing the players plenty of room, Harris’s writing is lustrous and propulsive by turns – very often both. He’s attempted something ambitious and pulled it off, capturing the variegated moods of the spirituals Du Bois called “sorrow songs” without adhering to their form.”

Francis Davis, Village Voice