Jazzy Notes with Harlan Jefferson
“music is A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE” FOR HARLAN JEFFERSON AND HIS FANS
Harlan Jefferson has spent his entire life playing music across the United States, including big cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago. Despite his travels, he enjoys returning to play in the Beloit area. Some of his Beloit performances have taken place at events and venues such as Friends of Riverfront, Music at Harry’s Place, Grand Avenue Pub, Friday’s in the Park, and the Farmers’ Market, as well as Rockton venues, including the Rockton Inn, amongst others.
Jefferson and his band, The Harlan Jefferson Band, always deliver top-notch performances for their guests. The 6-8 piece band plays a wide variety of music genres, including reggae, island, Motown, jazz, rock, Caribbean, country, oldies, R&B, beach, and dance. Every time they take the stage, the crowd is grooving. One such example is a performance at Music at Harry’s Place; a young concertgoer brought his guitar on stage to jam with the best, while other children brought their best dance moves, showcasing the reach of Jefferson’s music to all ages (pictured below).
One of Harlan’s favorite Beloit events to play at is Music at Harry’s Place, put on by Friends of Riverfront. “Harlan has been playing at Harry’s Place for 25 years or more,” says Jennifer Kodl, Executive Director of Friends of Riverfront. “Harlan Jefferson is a talented and respected musician, as are the members of his band. Our audiences know that he will deliver an exciting and entertaining experience with great music that they know and love! The music makes people happy, brings back great memories, and gets everyone up and moving.”
Harlan’s upbringing was filled with inspiration from his father, who was raised in Beloit. He fondly remembers attending national art jazz events held in Beloit with his father, where he observed the performances of renowned artists. Not only does Harlan have family ties to Beloit, but also his friends, as “a lot of fans became friends” over his 35-year contribution to performing in Beloit.
Several members of the band are originally from Beloit, although some have since passed away. One of Harlan’s bass players, Frede Miller-Crawford, is a music star who has traveled across the country with blues artists. His upbringing was through his involvement in the band, Seven Shades of Brown. Another Beloit native, Matt Goodwin – whom Harlan affectionately refers to as “Pops” – still resides in Beloit and frequently performs at the Grand Avenue Pub. He is even featured on one of Harlan’s CDs. Goodwin was an inspiration to Harlan, as he “helped introduce me to the Beloit area and Caucasian folks into arts.” Both band members continue to call Beloit their home.
Harlan acknowledges that as an artist, one of the many challenges faced includes “bringing a mix of diverse people together.” However, he takes pride in knowing that his music has a positive impact on the community. Having played on and off in Beloit, he has observed a sense of “relief and change from everything [his fans] listen to,” almost like a “breath of fresh air” when his fans feel his presence as he takes the stage. Harlan feels a strong connection with each crowd he plays for and he explains that “if a crowd is there [I am] networking, engaging, and building relationships.”
Harlan is not only focused on his music, but also on the vibrancy of the community and its members. While performing at events such as Downtown Beloit’s Fridays in the Park and the Farmers’ Market, he symbolizes that those performances are a way for him to “give back” to the community. According to Harlan, “music is a universal language” that connects people in a feel-good way, no matter what crowd he is playing for.
Although Harlan is not playing as frequently in the Beloit area as he used to, he still enjoys performing here. These days, he can mostly be found in the Rockford area, where he is actively working on a startup program called Live at Levings Talent Show and Concerts. This is a summer series of musical performances and acts that are designed to promote cultural enrichment for the diverse community. Aside from his program contributions, you can spot him at various Rockford events and venues.
Tune in to upcoming performances by visiting the Visit Beloit and Friends of Riverfront websites.