Billy Harper

Black Saint

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Tenor saxophonist Billy Harper helped launch the Italy-based Black Saint jazz label with this 1975 release. And not only does this represent the inaugural outing for the label, it also signifies one of the finest modern jazz releases of the '70s. Influenced by tenor sax giant John Coltrane, Harper proceeded to mold a distinctly personalized sound awash with slight inferences of R&B and hard bop. Additionally, the saxophonist's melodic gifts come to the forefront throughout this often-invigorating studio date. On the opening piece, titled "Dance Eternal Spirits, Dance," the tenor saxophonist fuses an engagingly melodic theme with lightning-fast flurries atop a peppery jazz waltz groove. Harper radiantly executes soul-searching lines atop a loosely based jazz waltz/swing vamp during "Croquet Ballet," as he alternates lower-register voicings with high-pitched, plaintive cries. Here the artist shrewdly reworks the primary melody as he literally interrogates his tenor saxophone. Highlights abound, while trumpeter Virgil Jones and pianist Joe Bonner provide Harper with buoyant frameworks via hearty soloing and intuitive support. Vigorously recommended.

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