Projects




Neighborhood Salon Luminaries (2019-2020)
Project sponsor: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston)

The Neighborhood Salon is a gathering of Boston's select artists and cultural luminaries.

Neighborhood Salon cohorts nurture an active exchange of ideas between Boston's most innovative and thoughtful creatives, fostering collaborations and artistic networks while shaping Gardner Museum programming.

Modeled after Isabella Stewart Gardner’s legacy as a curator and hostess of artist salons around the turn of the century, the primary goal of the Neighborhood Salon is to exchange creative ideas and dialogue with Boston’s most innovative and thoughtful luminaries as a means of informing programming at the Gardner.

The Neighborhood Salon is led by Rhea Vedro and Luana Morales.

Visit: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum




Roots, Water, And Sunlight -
A Contemporary Octet Expedition through the Expressions of James Baldwin (2019)

In looking to expand his skills as a composer, Harris set out to put music to the renowned and significant thoughts shared by James Baldwin, in particular those from the book ‘The Fire Next Time’.

The actualization of this idea is his project “Roots, Water, and Sunlight”, which comprises three movements for a wind octet to be accompanied by rhythm section, digital instrumentation, and recorded words of Baldwin. It debuted at the Berklee Performance Center on February 2019.

Review by: ArtFuse

Video Excerpts from: "Roots, Water, and Sunlight" here

 

Kevin Harris has assembled an extraordinary team of musicians who have shown to have their own voice and are eager to bring the audience through this journey. In this through composed piece, Harris’ instrument will not be his piano. Instead he will be at the very forefront, leading the ensemble in executing and delivering his message through the notes he has composed.

In “The Fire Next Time” Baldwin courageously addresses racial injustice in America. With his composition, Harris aspires to convey, through musical expression, Baldwin’s perspective on how blacks and whites must transcend what they think they know, believe, understand and fear, and that only by expanding their perception on both sides, they can fulfil and honor the way society can and perhaps should be.

In the words of Baldwin: “Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shivering and all the stars aflame” is the reminder that when our reality is unexpectedly shaken up by presenting itself in a different way, it is only by engaging with this new reality that we can actually find beneficial conclusions.
Baldwin’s unique understanding of the racial undertones of the 60’s seems to be quite close to what we are experiencing today, where challenged realities are not met with a willingness to evolve.

Harris’ ultimate desire is that his music will inspire his audience to listen carefully, to be in tune with all positive stimuli that surround us and continuously be committed to positive and courageous changes.

Roots, Water, and Sunlight
First movement:
Reality Dissipating
Comfortingly harmonious, Harris' first movement slowly transports the listener from a feeling of familiarity to one of ambiguous sense of not knowing what will occur next. As the more pleasant harmonies (reality) dissipate, one can hear Baldwin softly whispering to the observer “who will you become as the stars above you (your reality) change position or fall from the sky?"

Second movement:
The Uphill Quest for Fragility, Courage, and Curiosity
The second movement strives to represent the listener’s struggle to wrestle with his or her ever changing reality. “When stretched” Harris asks, "what new shape can we develop/evolve into”? Harris wishes to remind the listener that just like water, we have the unquestionable ability to masterfully adapt to a society of different social classes, ethnicities, genders, and so forth.

Third movement:
Horizon of an Unknown Star
The closing movement is an encouragement to embrace change, leverage one’s creativity and boldness, and go beyond one’s own limitations. Harris’ statement that “perhaps one of life’s greatest rewards is coming to embrace change after having resisted it for so long” is the source of inspiration for this final movement. His concluding thought is that collectively, we can improve our society in wondrous ways we have yet to know.

Debut Performance at Berklee Performance Center on February 5th

Personnel:

Composer and Director
•Kevin Harris

Wind Section
•Anggie Obin, Flute
•Jonathan Suazo, Alto Sax
•Gregory Groover, Tenor Sax
•Noah Slate, French Horn
•Jason Palmer, Trumpet
•John Bradford, Trumpet
•Elliot Brown, Trombone
•Max Agree, Trombone

Rhythm Section
•Max Ridley, Bass
•Tyson Jackson, Drums
•Nikolai Mishchenko, Piano

Electronic Digital Instrumentation
•Calvin Limuel




"Fractal " (2019)

 

With this project, Kevin Harris is proposing a musical representation of ‘Fractal’, the complex pattern found all around us that is self-similar and intricately beautiful.
Such patterns, in life and music, are reminders that we, in our uniqueness, are equally attractive and complex.
Debout concert hosted by Mandorla Music Series




Upward Mothers (2018)
By Jason Palmer and Kevin Harris
Project sponsor: Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture

It’s been said that Art is meant to comfort those in pain and courageously also awaken the comfortable. Through musical expression Jason Palmer and Kevin Harris seek to honor, interpret, and imitate the courage of mothers who have lost their children to senseless acts of violence.

- Debut performance: December 2018
- Upcoming performance: Saturday, February 29, 2020 @ The Kennedy Center, Washington DC

Coming soon: Excerpt from: "Upward Mothers Project"

 

In the months of September, October, November, and December 2018 Jason and Kevin had the privilege to interview Anne Beach, Clarissa Turner, Fay Rackley, and Seraphina Taylor. It is from the gentle strength and resolve of these mothers that we can came to admire their positive philosophy of living upward and inspiring those around them to strive to achieve their greatest potential.

Collectively, Kevin and Jason have similar memories in middle school and high school of losing close friends and relatives to senseless acts of violence. These tragedies not only inspired them to collaborate on this project but also inspired them to speak out against violence in general.

About the development of the music:
After listening to the rising and falling inflection of each mother’s voice, Jason Palmer assigned extracted music notes to the material. After transcribing these tones phrases to music sheet music, Jason and Kevin divided up the phrases. Each phrase served as a “seed” from which their compositions (harmonies, rhythms, instrumentation) developed.

Palmer’s and Harris’ hope and goal is, for all who will experience this powerful project and the inspiration behind the stories recounted, to become more curious and aware as to how we, as a society, can collectively and creatively prevent mothers from having to tell these stories.

Jason Palmer compositions
From the words of Anne Beach:
“The world is a better place because she was in it”
“People appeared that could help me”
“And just be kind”

From the words of Clarissa Turner:
“I used to sing to him when he was a baby”

From the words of Fay Rackley:
“Not one stands alone”

Kevin Harris compositions
From the words of Clarissa Turner:
“I've learned in life”
“But who's out there”
“Survival chances”
“One thing I do know for sure”

From the words of Seraphina Taylor:
“So sweet”

Honoring the memory of:
Kenny Rackley, Victoria McManus, Willie Marquis Turner,
Carl Otis Taylor

Debut performance at the Kroc Center on December 16, 2018 with:
Jason Palmer, trumpet
Kevin Harris, piano
Tyson Jackson, drums
Raven Moran, electric guitar
Ron Mahdi, bass




Griot Series (2017)

For centuries, the West African Griot has encompassed the characteristics of musician, historian, poet, teacher, advisor, ambassador, storyteller, and much more. In modern times, the contemporary griot additionally speaks to the times we live in giving us a vision by which we can paint, carve, and mold the courageous society of which we can become.

Excerpt from: "Griot Series: Stevie Wonder" here




Music Arranging (2016)

It was a special project to assist Jason Palmer in arranging for Esperanza Spaulding's most recent tour.

Check out my horn arrangement of "Winter Sun" here




"Invictus" (2016)

 

A highly interactive compilation of repertoire that seeks to interpret a message of strength through a very important poem, "Invictus" written by William Ernest Henley. Each tune of this through composed piece reflects ideas and statements that derive from the poem.

 

The process of feeling conquered or unconquered, along with an opportunity to work together with other artists is what inspired this project. Harris doesn't subscribe to the belief that it’s meant for a musician to only play music or a visual artist to only draw, or a photographer to only take photos. We are all seeking to communicate something that makes the difference, that is impactful. And Harris saw that a creative alliance could be shaped by combining music poetry.

Harris recounts that Invictus’ author, William Ernest Henley lived an inspirational yet challenging life. He was someone who was not afraid to talk about the heavier times we all go through but he also offered a view into meaningful ways to deal with such times. Nelson Madela is known to have used this poem to remain focused and motivated while incarcerated at Robben Island. As an artist, Harris admits that he encounters ‘delicate’ times where it may be difficult to stay creative without having to conform. But remaining ‘unconquered’ means believing in one self and that one can be inventive, yield sound results, and make a difference despite opposing forces.

In composing the tunes for this project, Harris studied the different stanzas of Invictus and assigned a different word to the way each stanza made him feel.

One stanza inspired the word ‘Questions’ – “When you internalize the poem,” Harris says, “or any art that challenges one paradigm, you start by asking yourself questions. In this case, some of the questions are ‘How much am I the master of my fate and to what degree am I the captain of my soul?’, ‘What does it mean for someone to believe that God is in charge?’. Henley was an atheist and these powerful words were certainly referring to a reliance on self, but I wrestle with these words,” Harris continues, “with the fact that I believe that god gives me the power of choice and as such, to steer my life in whichever direction I choose. To this fact, I am the captain.”

Another tune is ‘Descent’ – “ ‘Descending’ comes before the questions. In honesty,” Harris emphasizes,” it is critical to admit to ways one has been conquered, how often, and what habits we continue to repeat that “imprison” us. Failing to make this journey, we are bound to stay on the same course and we become steered by routine instead of being the ‘captains’ we actually are.”

The tune ‘Biko’ is dedicated to Steve Biko, the South African anti-apartheid activist who reached out to the younger generation and help them to bring to light the horrors and injustices of his country’s tragic system.

‘The Elders’ morning revival song’ - This tune is the only one with lyrics and is dedicated to the elders who have passed on before us, those who are looking on our actions throughout our lives from sunrise to sunset.

Harris has dedicated ‘Lullaby for a Yellowbird, Lullaby for Humanity’ in part to his wife and in part to humanity. Harris states that “the love that I feel from and for my wife is very special and envisioning the same type of care among the members of the human race is a dream that I believe we have stopped pursuing. It’s dedicated to a powerful cohesiveness that we can and should achieve.”

Harris says that some projects are to be taken to the studio and record, others, like this one, are just to be performed live.


Check out a performance



"The Adaptive Mindset That Businesses Need Today is Embodied in Jazz"(2016)

Article by Katherine Shao for Oxygen Learning

In the business world, while we hear a lot about change, we also know that being “ready for change” is a constant struggle. To elaborate on this, let’s talk for a moment about jazz.

“You have to always have a sense of flexibility,” says Harris.
“To improvise means that you are always ready for change, but at the same time you know the rules. To get yourself ready for that kind of flexibility – where you’ve put the time into your instrument, so that when the moment comes, you’ll be able to call on what you’ve learned, and know how to push the rules – requires practice.”

Read full article here




"International Song Competition " (2015)

 

“Pinched Nerve” from the album “Museum Vol. 1” was selected as a finalist in the Jazz category by the International Songwriting Composition’s committee. With over 18,500 entrants, less than 2% of all entrants were selected as finalists. “Pinched Nerve” received an “honorable mention”.




"Museum Vol 1" (2013)

 

A personal collection of concepts in song form. Imagine a museum whose walls exhibit your most courageous dreams and your most challenging fears. In each room hang collections and recollections of continually changing architecture that perfectly frame your greatest adventures past, present, and future. Read Press Release here



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