Wendell Harrison, member of Local 5 (Detroit, MI), was recently named the 2018 Kresge Eminent Artist. This lifetime achievement award honors a musician who has had a significant impact on the cultural environment of Detroit and is dedicated to the development of Detroit’s cultural community and residents.
Harrison is a tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, teacher, composer, bandleader, and entrepreneur. His style combines modern jazz roots with funk, fusion and free jazz. He also draws influences from Latin, African, blues, rock, and European classical music, giving him a unique, sought-after sound.
In 1978, Harrison founded Rebirth, Inc., a nonprofit organization designed to provide jazz performance and education opportunities to budding jazz artists. To this day, this program provides jazz concerts and educational programs. A number of well-known jazz artists have participated in this program, including pianist Geri Allen, saxophonist Eddie Harris, and trumpeter Woody Shaw.
Harrison has written two method books on jazz improvisation entitled, The Be-Boppers Method Books I & II, and is currently collaborating on a book with one of his former professors, Robert McTyre, entitled, The Fundamentals of Marketing and Promotion for the 21st Century. He produces recordings for varying artists to this day including his wife, Pamela Wise, who is also a member of Local 5 (Detroit, MI).
Today, Harrison continues to perform and provide a wealth of knowledge to the jazz musicians of tomorrow. Over the last 10 years, he has been a jazz educator in residence at Detroit School of Performing Arts. He is also an educator for the Detroit Jazz Foundation, an organization providing educational jazz opportunities to students in the Detroit Public Schools. Here, Harrison teaches jazz ensembles, jazz improvisation, and performance development, hoping to shape the jazz musicians of the future.