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20 Years On Air - J. Michael Harrison

JM HarrisonHotHouse At PAFA / Celebrating 20 Years On Air For J. Michael Harrison

Saturday, October 28 - 2PM / Featuring Charles Ellerbe & MATRIX 12:38

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts / PAFA

118-128 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

For Tickets: Click Here


This year, WRTI-FM radio host, J. Michael Harrison is celebrating 20 years of his radio show, The Bridge, and to mark this important milestone, PAFA is partnering with the Philadelphia Jazz Project to present a special HotHouse concert featuring Charles Ellerbe and MATRIX 12:38, hosted by Harrison. Philadelphia native and guitarist, Charles Ellerbe is considered one of the most powerful guitar improvisers working in music. His approach to guitar is skillful and filled with a wry sense of humor. Ellerbe and his ensemble, MATRIX 12:38 take the stage to offer this rare concert in celebration of J. Michael Harrison’s radio career.


J. Michael Harrison was born in Philadelphia within walking distance of Temple University. His first radio show was WPEB’s, Is That Jazz in 1993. In 1994, he came to WRTI as a production volunteer, then in 1996 started his own show, The Bridge, which continues to this day. In 2002, the program won Philadelphia Magazine’s "Best Radio Program "award and in 2007, Philadelphia City Paper called it the “Best On-Air Reminder That Jazz Didn’t Die in 1965.” The Philadelphia Clef Club made him a Stakeholder in 2016, and in 2017 the Jazz Journalist Association named him a "Jazz Hero." He has lectured at Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania, has written liner notes, has sat on and moderated numerous panels, has curated series, produced events, and hosted concerts in Philadelphia, NJ, New York City, and New Orleans. J. Michael Harrison also works closely with the Philadelphia Jazz Project.

PJP spoke with J. Michael Harrison, about his accomplishment of presenting 20 years of radio in Philadelphia.

PJP: Can you briefly describe your direction as a radio host?

JM Harrison & GuestsJ. Michael Harrison: I was very fortunate to fall in love with music at a really young age.  My passion for music introduced me to the power of radio at a time that Philadelphia offered up some of the most incredible radio options that one could ask for. WDAS, WRTI, WKDU, WXPN,  WWDB, WHAT, WFIL, WIBG, WMMR were all visited as I traveled up and down the radio dial during the 60's and 70's.  They all contributed to what I thought radio could/should be.  


PJP: What and whom are pivotal musical influences on your creative approach?

J. Michael Harrison: It starts with my brother John and my cousin, Harry "Butch" Reed. Beyond their love of music it was James Brown, Tommy James and the Shondells, Hendrix, Motown, Miles, Trane, Santana, The Beatles, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly.  These are some of the folks that were instrumental in opening up my mind. Essentially, that was the key for me. Having a mind that didn't discriminate was really important. Excepting music for what it is!


PJP: Tell us about how you started your relationship with radio station, WRTI?


JM Harrison 3J. Michael Harrison: My cousin Butch introduced me to WRTI host, Mike Bailey who connected me to Howard Jackson who brought me in behind the scenes on the production side while I was still hosting a show at WPEB in 1994.  I did a lot of remotes back then. Bill Clark was the PD back then and put me on the air. I sat in with and for Ludwig Van Trikt back then from time to time.  Tobias Poole and Kim Berry green-lighted what eventually became The Bridge.      


PJP: Can you share a few bright moments from your 20 years on air in Philly?

J. Michael Harrison: Too many to mention them all!  I thought this past Friday's show was beautiful!  Had several folks tell me the really felt the vibe.  Everytime I host The Bridge is a bright moment but having the opportunity to speak with so many of the artist who's work I've enjoyed is yet another bright moment.  Witnessing so many young artist develop into phenomenal talents has also been special. With that said visits from folks like Sonia Sanchez, Jack Dejohnette, Odean Pope, Khan Jamal, Prince Lasha, Trudy Pitts, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Marshall Allen, James Blood Ulmer, Stanley Clark, Jill Scott, Greg Osby, Steve Coleman, Charlie Ellerbe, Vijay Iyer, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Jean Paul Bourelly, Justin Faulkner, Byard Lancaster, Bootsie Barns, Wolfgang Puschnig, Ursula Rucker, Orrin Evans, Bethlehem, Soweto Kinch, Gil Scott Heron...

PJP: Tell us about the event at PAFA and guitarist, Charles Ellerbe.

J. Michael Harrison:  I love Charlie's music. He's one of the most gifted musicians around. Great to be JM Harrison 4able to shine a little light on him at PAFA. I've been blessed to do something I love and get paid for it.  Celebrating 20 years of The Bridge on WRTI has been really special to me. Having this installment of the celebration at a signature institution like PAFA will be memorable. Presenting Charlie Ellerbe in concert is absolutely amazing!

PJP: Why Jazz? When you could be doing anything else, Why this music?

J. Michael Harrison: It's all music! Everything is music! It was with you in the womb. I try to not get caught up on labels, titles or categories or genre's. The music selects me. Music is indeed my sanctuary. Its my passion! Follow you passion and life rewards you. If it feels good to me I go with it. It's been around forever. It's everywhere you go.     



HotHouse At PAFA / Celebrating 20 Years On Air For J. Michael Harrison

Saturday, October 28 - 2PM / Featuring Charles Ellerbe & MATRIX 12:38

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts / PAFA

118-128 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

For Tickets: Click Here


HotHouse: PJP's musical laboratory for Jazz/New Music/Improvisors and Cutting Edge Artists - providing a public space for experimentation, rehearsals, concept and project development with an audience-response/dialogue component built in. HotHouse presented a series of five events at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as part of PAFA After Dark during their Fall 2016 season. The HotHouse series continues with its goal to shock, entertain, challenge and confront.


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HotHouse At PAFA is produced by Philadelphia Jazz Project in collaboration with Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts / PAFA.


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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation and The Wyncote Foundation.


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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.