“Harish [Raghavan] always has been a marvelous talent, but he’s really taken off with that talent,” remarks the bassist John Clayton. The vocalist Kurt Elling agrees: “Harish is a bass player whose reputation for musicality, musicianship and professionalism is taking firm hold on the New York scene. Cat is solid, man.” Growing up just north of Chicago, Harish began his musical training on both western and Indian percussion, eventually taking up the double bass in his late teens. Something took hold quickly; before long, the young musician was enrolled at USC, studying with both Clayton and Robert Hurst, and apprenticing under some of the finest musicians on the Los Angeles scene. In 2007, he moved to New York, and has subsequently become one of the most in-demand bassists of his generation, making contributions to bands led by Ambrose Akinmusire, Vijay Iyer, Taylor Eigsti, Eric Harland, Kurt Elling, and dozens of others. Two years later, he made it to the semifinals of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Bass Competition. Harish has been performing at The Gallery for many years; on Saturday, he will return once more to celebrate his birthday on our stage. We caught up with the bassist via email while he was on the road to discuss his current projects, including the one we’ll hear this weekend, and his early memories of The Jazz Gallery. Harish Raghavan speaks:
You’re in Paris right now. What projects have you been involved with lately and where have you traveled recently?
So, currently I’m here after spending a few days in Athens. Right now, I’m on tour with Eric Harland‘s Voyager band. I’m still just playing with my friends: Ambrose [Akinmusire], Walter [Smith III], Taylor [Eigsti], Eric [Harland], and Logan [Richardson] as of late.
We’re looking forward to celebrating your birthday with you at The Gallery; you’ve been part of our community for a long time. Tell us about the first time you came here, and/or about some memorable experiences you’ve had at The Gallery.
Wow, I can’t really recall the first time…I’m sure it was with Ambrose or Logan. There have been so many memorable experiences at the old Gallery and the new one! It’s hard to really pinpoint one in particular; I know that they have all been scenarios in which we were searching. The Gallery definitely provides an atmosphere where that is encouraged, which is rare and necessary.
Tell us about the music you’ll be performing.
We’ll be playing a lot of my music….some new and old, but for me it’s all new. Leading a band is a completely new experience for me. Hearing this music in this context is still very fresh. All of the members of the band are very gifted and inspiring composers, so we’ll be playing some of their music as well. The personal for this particular gig includes: Taylor Eigsti, Charles Altura, Logan Richardson, and Justin Brown. I just wanted to do a gig with all my friends. I trust and respect these guys so much, which allows me to not have to worry about the notes on the page being played correctly, and really focus on creating a sound. I’ve played with Taylor for over a decade. We met in LA when we were both at USC. Coincidentally, LA is also where I met Charles and Justin. I met Logan when I first moved to the city in June, 2007. I don’t think this particular configuration has ever performed, so its really exciting for me. I’m really looking forward to presenting this music with these individuals!