Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center’s next “Jazz at Emerson” concert will feature local saxophonist Harlan Jefferson at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 19, at the historic Emerson House on the Mendelssohn PAC campus, 420 N. Main St., Rockford.
Harlan Jefferson released You’re All I Need in 2007 on Rotown Records, a label founded by Jefferson and Dave Ayres. The third full-length CD written, produced and performed by Jefferson, You’re All I Need reflects the eclectically-mature taste in music the saxophonist had even as a child growing up in a musical family.
Influenced by blues, jazz, R&B, gospel, and hip hop, and instructed by his father, A.Z. Jefferson Jr., Harlan began performing at the age of 10. By the time he was in junior high school and active in bands, he became known locally as the “National Anthem Player,” performing at college, semi- and pro-ball games from Rockford and Chicago up to Milwaukee, including suburban areas.
A rapper/DJ-turned-saxophonist, his reputation came full circle in 2006 with the release of the single “The Chicago Bears Anthem.” Written by Swade, Harlan Jefferson executive produced and promoted the ultra-modern rap-with-class that was played in Chicago at one of the Bears’ games. The track was quickly picked up by DJs, who played it in the streets, in clubs, on the Internet, and on television stations and music and sports radio stations in Rockford, Chicago and Indiana.
His deep commitment to soul music has sparked many flames. Neo-Soul Night developed out of one of those sparks. Held on Monday nights at Kryptonite, a nightclub known for providing original music and supporting the arts, Neo-Soul Night was well-attended for more than two years. Patrons relieved Monday burdens with performance poetry, down-home cooking by Harlan’s mom, Estelle, smooth jazz from SoSoTight, and hip hop dancing at the end of the night.
Harlan Jefferson is also known as much for being a planner and a businessman as he is for his musical abilities. He provides various combos, often with an eight-piece band, for private parties and corporate events as well as creating his own radio commercials and promotional spots.
He still finds the time to work weddings and give private saxophone lessons. When he’s not out of town, fans can find him at Big Al’s every Tuesday and at Franchesco’s every Friday, performing everything from Frank Sinatra and Louie Armstrong to Marvin Gaye, Prince and John Legend.
“Jazz at Emerson” is held the third Thursday each month at 5:30 p.m., at the Emerson House in the heart of Rockford’s cultural corridor. Concertgoers can enjoy the swinging sounds of jazz, relax with a glass of wine and light refreshments, and meet the performers after the program. Doors open at 5 p.m. Seating is limited.
Special holiday admission for this concert is: $10 for adults, $5 for students. Proceeds will benefit the musicians and the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center. Visit www.mendelssohnpac.org for more details.
From the Dec. 18-24, 2013, issue