Slideshow: Donald Harrison and the Berklee All-Stars Perform for Enthusiastic Crowds in India
In his first trip to India, renowned saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. '81 played with the Berklee All-Stars to a sold-out crowd of several thousand people at the sixth Delhi International Jazz Festival on September 26.
"It felt incredible. (The crowd) was very receptive, and we played our music, and they were up and dancing at the end and they wanted more. So artists are always happy when the audience wants more," Harrison told local media channel WION.
Harrison and the band, which includes vocalist and Berklee faculty member Patrice Williamson, bassist Max Moran '10, pianist and faculty member Leo Blanco, and drummer Darryl Staves Jr., kicked off the hourlong set with the blues and then moved into jazz standards such as "When the Saints Go Marching in."
"The way Donald Harrison was able to interact with the crowd was spectacular," said Clint Valladares, managing director of the Berklee India Exchange (BIX), which organized the trip. "The crowd was enthusiastic that jazz was being performed in India and coming directly from the source, American popular music, to people in India, who had always loved jazz but don’t often get the opportunity to experience it in a way that is accessible, soulful, funky, and true to the tradition."
As part of the trip, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to strengthen U.S.-India relations through jazz, Harrison and the band held a workshop at the Ark School, a government school in New Delhi for children 8 to 10 years old from underserved communities, on September 27 and then performed a 45-minute set that night at the American Center in honor of World Tourism Day. The following day the group headed to Chandigarh, India, for an hourlong concert for an audience of 500.
Harrison told India's Business Standard that coming to India had long been a dream of his. And it didn't disappoint. "The audience here treats you like a special guest. They know how to engage with the artist. And most importantly, you people are the warmest," he said.