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Billy Harper


Billy Harper: “Destiny Is Yours”

Billy Harper (tenor saxophone); Eddie Henderson (trumpet); Francesca Tanksley (piano); Clarence Seay (bass); Newman Barker (drums).  “On tenor saxophonist Billy Harper’s Steeplechase debut, he and his working band of trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist Francesca Tanksley, bassist Clarence Seay, and drummer Newman Taylor Baker perform six originals, five written by Harper, and the oft-played standard “My Funny Valentine,” played here a little faster than usual. A veteran of groups led by jazz greats Art Blakey, Max Roach, Randy Weston, Gil Evans, and Lee Morgan, the vastly under-recognized Harper is a master tenor saxophonist who has developed a unique sound on his chosen instrument, sometimes very passionate, sometimes very lyrical. His compositions, characterized by shifting tempos and themes played over insistent vamps, always have a spiritual, uplifting quality to them. Highlights include the title track, a medium-tempo waltz, Tanksley’s “Dance in the Question,” which alternates between an up-tempo 4/4 and a slower 3/4 section, and Harper’s “Groove From Heaven,” a medium-tempo swinger which alternates between a descending Harper riff and a six-note bass vamp. This is a perfect introduction to the artist’s music.” — Greg Turner, AMG.

220px-Billy_Harper_photo_2Billy Harper performing at the Jazz Standard in 2007.

Billy Harper (born January 17, 1943 in Houston, Texas) is an American jazz saxophonist, “one of a generation of Coltrane-influenced tenor saxophonists” with a distinctively stern, hard-as-nails sound on his instrument.


In 1965 Harper earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Texas.

Harper has played with some of jazz’s greatest drummers; he served with Art Blakey‘s Messengers for two years (1968–70); he played very briefly with Elvin Jones (1970), he played with the Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra in the 1970s, and was a member of Max Roach‘s band in the late 1970s.  He has also been a frequent member of Randy Weston‘s ensembles. He performed on Gil Evans‘ 1973 album Svengali, and contributed two of the most-performed tunes in the band’s repertoire: “Priestess” and “Thoroughbred.”

Harper’s 1973 album Capra Black “remains one of the seminal recordings of jazz’s black consciousness movement–a profoundly spiritual effort that channels both the intellectual complexity of the avant garde as well as the emotional potency of gospel.” The Italian jazz label Black Saint was launched with Harper’s 1975 album Black Saint. His later releases have mostly been on SteepleChase and Evidence.

Billy+Harper+-+The+Awakening+-+LP+RECORD-532368Discography – As Leader

  • 1973: Capra Black (Strata East)
  • 1975: Black Saint (Black Saint)
  • 1977: Soran-Bushi, B.H. (Denon)
  • 1979: Trying to Make Heaven My Home (MPS Records)
  • 1979: Billy Harper Quintet in Europe (Soul Note)
  • 1979: The Awakening (Marge Records)
  • 1980: The Believer (Baystate)
  • 1989: Destiny Is Yours
  • 1993: Somalia
  • 1998: If Our Hearts Could Only See (DIW Records)
  • 2000: Soul of an Angel
  • 2009: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2

tumblr_mapdivQUJW1rb5wf5o1_500As Sideman

With Charles Earland

With Gil Evans

With Bobbi Humphrey

With Lee Morgan

With Max Roach

With Woody Shaw

With McCoy Tyner

With Randy Weston

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