Harrison’s “Birds, Bees, the Clouds & the Trees” Influences Playlist

The jazzy R&B composer cites everyone from Karriem Riggins to Vince Guaraldi as inspiration for his latest collection of songs, out this week via Last Gang Records.

Harrison’s Birds, Bees, the Clouds & the Trees Influences Playlist

The jazzy R&B composer cites everyone from Karriem Riggins to Vince Guaraldi as inspiration for his latest collection of songs, out this week via Last Gang Records.

Words: Mike LeSuer

Photo: Luis Mora

April 25, 2023

Maybe it’s just the fact that Toronto-based R&B artist Harrison has been lending his production and composition talents to ad campaigns for Play-Doh, Nerf, and Nintendo lately, but there’s a visceral sense of nostalgia emanating from his third and latest collection of songs, Birds, Bees, the Clouds & the Trees. Aided by guest vocalists like Kadhja Bonet, TOBi, and Guilty Simpson across the record’s 16 tracks, the jazzy soundscapes he creates feel rooted in a sense of childhood wonder revisited for the first time in years—as if they were inspired by encountering an old cartoon featurette on YouTube he’d once worn down a VHS copy of until it was completely unplayable.

In a sense, Harrison confirmed this supposition with the playlist he created for us outlining his influences for the new LP. Beyond opening the tracklist with a seasonal Vince Guaraldi cut (probably not the first season you’d associate with the jazz pianist), the songwriter makes frequent reference to songs—explicably or not—reminding him of parents and grandparents. Elsewhere, a Uyama Hiroto namedrop takes him back to accidentally coming across the Japanese producer’s music as a teenager and all the musical doors which that discovery subsequently opened for him. While it doesn’t always dip into the universal childhood experiences of surprisingly tasty modeling clay or surprisingly painful foam darts, the record seems fully integrated with sounds sourced from Harrison’s own upbringing.

With the album dropping this Friday via Last Gang Records, you can check out Harrison’s full inspirations playlist below.

Vince Guaraldi, “The Great Pumpkin Waltz”
A direct inspiration for “Like When We Were Kids.” “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” has a strong focus on the drum brush groove. The way Guaraldi uses a descending progression here and manages to resolve it beautifully is something I wish to achieve one day.

Uyama Hiroto, “Waltz for Life Will Born”
I think I was 13 when I first heard this song. I was first getting into Nujabes and this song was mistakenly labeled as his on YouTube. The drums are heavy and the song pushes forward aggressively. The piano vamp in the intro is similar to McCoy Tyner’s on “My Favorite Things.” A beautiful piece of music that blends hip-hop and jazz perfectly.

John Coltrane, “My Favorite Things”
I could write a whole essay on how this song alone inspired the album. At 6:29, the piano vamp from the intro comes back. Could easily be the most inspirational 15 seconds of music I’ve ever heard. Makes me want to cry, float, run, and fall in love. It’s insane.

America, “Ventura Highway”
My pops loves America. Would hear them a whole bunch growing up. “Ventura Highway”’s chorus has such a beautiful use of harmony. I made a cover of it I’d like to release someday!

Karriem Riggins, “Ooooaaaa”
My love of short songs is encapsulated in this Karriem Riggins joint. Forty-five seconds of pure bliss. That looping violin/viola and the beautiful choir drive the song to the finish line like no problem.

Koop, “Summer Sun”
My best friend Butters put me onto this track. The song opens with an unapologetically happy brass vamp. The lyrics are so lovely—just singing about the sun giving you some more energy [laughs]. Like, you can’t go wrong with that.

The Sweet Enoughs, “Mysterious River Snake”
I could never put my finger on it, but this song reminds me of my grandad. It reminds me of getting older. It’s an instrumental, so I guess it’s up for each person’s interpretation, but I can say that it is truly a beautiful song. 

The Howard Roberts Quartet, “Chim Chim Cher-ee”
This shit is textbook comping by the organ player. I think this was the track that made me want to integrate organ into most of my songs on this album. First 30 seconds makes me feel like I’m in a chase scene in a ’60s film shot in Paris.

Maria Bethânia, “Mariana, Mariana”
My first contact with this song was hearing it sampled by Damu the Fudgemunk. Absolute banger. Easily one of the most beautiful string sections I’ve ever heard.

Pages, “Let It Go”
First 10 seconds…direct inspiration for “Inthecoupe.” Beautiful synth brass line. Funky and unserious—just how I like it.