Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Michael G. Nastos
A long time between recording dates eight years since his Metropolitan label release Soul of an Angel, many might have wondered what happened to the firebrand tenor saxophonist Billy Harper. But here he is in all his power and glory, playing the progressive jazz and clarion warrior calls that have distinguished him as an individualist, and a performer whose sound is instantly recognizable. The soulful cry, constant flow of ideas, and slightly tart sound has held Harper in good stead, and high regard. This CD showcases a larger ensemble with familiar bandmates like the exceptional pianist Francesca Tanksley, twin bassists Clarence Seay and Louie Spears, drummer Aaron ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Michael G. Nastos
A long time between recording dates eight years since his Metropolitan label release Soul of an Angel, many might have wondered what happened to the firebrand tenor saxophonist Billy Harper. But here he is in all his power and glory, playing the progressive jazz and clarion warrior calls that have distinguished him as an individualist, and a performer whose sound is instantly recognizable. The soulful cry, constant flow of ideas, and slightly tart sound has held Harper in good stead, and high regard. This CD showcases a larger ensemble with familiar bandmates like the exceptional pianist Francesca Tanksley, twin bassists Clarence Seay and Louie Spears, drummer Aaron Scott, a new face in jazz in trumpeter Keyon Harrold, and alto saxophonist Charles McNeal. Three tracks feature the recitations of Amiri Baraka which sound a bit muffled and overdubbed, but possess no lack of the fire and brimstone that he normally dishes out. Harper reshapes John Coltrane's modal "Africa" into "Africa Revisited" with a modified melody and harmony, and rhythm and piano motifs the same as the original. Baraka inserts lines from his poem "Where Dat Stuff Come From?," as his pointed commentary asserts African-Americans "did not come here to play basketball, or come in second on American Idol." He also quotes adages and sings snippets of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" "Knowledge of Self" continues Baraka's "Stuff" theme in a jazz history lesson, referring to icons Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Coleman Hawkins, and others over a bass groove with short, inquiring bursts from the horns. Words of "Where Does the Music Come From?" are added to "Oh...If Only," a hard bop tune where Harper harkens back to his days with Lee Morgan and Art Blakey. "Another Kind of Thoroughbred" recalls his substantial time with the Gil Evans Orchestra in a blues based staccato theme, and he soulfully sings "Amazing Grace" in an ethereal mood with piano and synthesizer. What makes Harper a true standout is his arranged and composed music, a tricky melding of individualistic counterpoint, singing saxes, sharply accented or thinly veiled lines. The light swing and four-note emphasis during "Who Here Can Judge Our Fates?" and the tick-tock rhythm buoying a decidedly deliberate approach to "Time & Time Again" most accurately represents this signature sound. So does "Cast the First Stone," utilizing strident Coltrane-like sheets of sound with trumpet and alto punctuations in a long jam that slows from 4/4 to 3/4 time in Harper's most involved and intricate charted music. Tanksley's feature "Thoughts & Slow Actions" with wordless vocals from Harper puts her in a different light, a contemplative, longing mood where she waxes rhapsodically in a way her chordal comping and driving supportive lines on the other tracks are not displayed. Certainly a celebration for fans of the 65-year-old Harper and a welcome addition to his potent discography, this CD represents him playing at an exceptionally high level, staying true to his spirit, and still making powerful music.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2/17/2009
  • Label: Talking House
  • UPC: 827912079616
  • Catalog Number: 810019

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Billy Harper Primary Artist, Tenor Saxophone
Amiri Baraka Spoken Word
Charles McNeal Alto Saxophone
Clarence Seay Bass
Aaron Scott Percussion, Drums
Louie Spears Bass
Francesca Tanksley Piano
Keyon Harrold Trumpet, French Horn
Clarence Seay Bass
Technical Credits
Billy Harper Composer, Liner Notes
Amiri Baraka Composer
Bernie Grundman Mastering
Pete Krawiec Engineer
Paul MacD Ruxton Art Direction
Peter Krawiec Engineer
Marc Weibel Producer
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