WRTI's J. Michael Harrison: Purveying the Progressive for Two Decades

Apr 10, 2017

It’s the 20th Anniversary of The Bridge with J. Michael Harrison, which airs every Friday night at 10 pm. It's “the Bridge between BeBop and Hip Hop, and everything in between." WRTI’s Maureen Malloy reports that J. Michael has always set his sights on music that makes the listener wonder...“Is that jazz?”

Radio script:

Maureen Malloy: J. Michael Harrison grew up around diverse music. His uncle is drummer Harry “Butch” Reed, and his older brother played in a band with free-jazz bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Listening to music that wasn’t being played on the radio, J. Michael got the opportunity to do something about that.

J. Michael Harrison: I kind of got involved with radio out of frustration. The music that I wanted to hear—and I knew there were a lot of people that wanted to hear it because they would be at the concerts I went to.

MM: His 1994 show at WPEB in West Philadelphia was called “Is That Jazz?” Then he moved through the ranks at WRTI, and in 1996, The Bridge was born. It was the same concept, with a new name.

JMH: When you talk music in almost any context, there’s a bridge involved. James Brown saying ‘Let’s take it to the bridge!’ There was just so many associations with that term. Being that bridge between generations, and maybe even genres, was something that I wanted to accomplish.

MM: Poetry and DJ culture were stretching their arms into other genres, and The Bridge was there. Jill Scott, Dave Valentin, the group Mandrill, and masses of local artists have made appearances. Twenty years in, J. Michael shows no sign of wavering from his mission to seek out progressive, alternative, and avant garde music.

JMH: I’m still that young cat that was hungry to hear something different. Now, I have the opportunity to not only to pursue that music, but to play the role of purveyor.

Check out the free tribute show to J. Michael Harrison that's part of the Kimmel Center’s Sittin’ In series on Wednesday, April 12th with Odean Pope, Cornell Rochester, and Gerald Veasley.

Listen to The Bridge every Friday from 10 pm to 2 am on WRTI