THE JAZZY WORLD OF HARRISON
BY MATT BAUER
PHOTO : LUIS MORA
Ask Toronto-based wunderkind Harrison to define the sound of his third full-length release , Birds , Bees , The Clouds & The Trees , and he responds with a smile : “ call it diet jazz .” It ’ s an appropriate description , since over the album ’ s 16 tracks the Juno , UK MVA and Prism Prize-nominated artist , composer and producer seamlessly fuses jazz , old-school hip-hop , funk , Brazilian bossa , Looney Tunes , Vince Guaraldi , video game and anime soundtracks , along with his own distinctive piano skill and star-studded collaborations into an idiosyncratic yet accessible aural world .
It ’ s a world that the 27-year old artist born Harrison Robinson has been creating since his teen years when he was inspired by the late hip-hop instrumental artist Nujabes ’ intro theme to the anime Samurai Champloo . “ I was just so taken aback at his use of jazz samples , and melding with hip hop , just this incredible musician ,” Harrison tells Canadian Musician . “ Then I also heard
38 CANADIAN MUSICIAN an artist called Andra , who made something called future funk at the time . I think the combination of these two musicians , I was like , ‘ I ’ d like to try this as well .’”
Amassing a collection of vintage keyboards and equipment ( all of which , aside from a Yahama DX7 , he has sold ), Harrison began recording beats in his bedroom to SoundCloud and quickly found an online following . His debut , the Juno-nominated Checkpoint Titanium dropped in 2016 followed by Apricity in 2018 . He ’ s also ventured into video game soundtracks ( composing music for video games ( Loud and Planet X ) and most recently commercials for NERF and Play-Doh , among others .
Having collaborated with Canadian hiphop royalty like Cadence Weapon , Sean Leon , DijahSB as well as Ryan Hemsworth and Daniela Andrade among many others , Harrison is a deeply respected yet unsung artist . With Birds , Bees , The Clouds & The Trees , Harrison is poised to break through to a new level .
A new sense of sonic adventure and experimentation is evident , with songs like the sophisticated off-kilter bounce of “ Cowboys ” and the ethereal “ Float ” ( which features vocals by Kadhja Bonet ) while the whimsical instrumental “ 7 PM ” pays homage to Vince Guaraldi . “ 100 percent , it was very largely inspired by Vince Guaraldi ’ s A Charlie Brown ’ s Christmas ,” Harrison explains . “ I look at Guaraldi as a musician that brought jazz to the masses . And maybe some people got beef with him about that . But it was just great melodies , I really liked that about his music . And I ’ m not the most technical jazz musician , I would barely call myself a jazz musician . So I don ’ t really know what I ’ m doing . But I recognize that he could make something almost repetitive sound just like a fully structured beautiful jazz song .”
Aside from Guaraldi , Harrison counts Oscar Peterson , Bill Evans , Honorousgu , Flying Lotus , and funny enough , someone called DJ Harrison , who Harrison says makes similar music to him , as his influences .
Harrison says that he didn ’ t start practicing the piano until 2016 . “ I thought it was the coolest thing ever . And in terms of production , composition , scoring , what have you , I think it was the most necessary instrument to