Billy Harper

If Our Hearts Could Only See

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Veteran tenor saxophonist Billy Harper's DIW debut is a revelation. Having sung wordless vocals on previous recordings, he makes his actual singing and speaking debut here. Harper displays a rich baritone voice on the standard "My One and Only Love," his own "If One Could Only See" (performed as an instrumental on the 1990 release Destiny Is Yours), and "I Move Silently Through This World," a poem by Vernel Lillie, Harper's high school drama teacher. The other six selections are Harper originals performed by his long-time working group including pianist Francesca Tanskley, bassist Clarence Seay, drummer Newman Taylor Baker, and trumpeter Eddie Henderson on three selections. Long recognized as one of jazz's most distinctive saxophonists, Harper also is a versatile composer. "Egypt" begins with an exotic melody played slowly that segues into up-tempo swing, while "World Without End" begins with some intense free dialogue before shifting into a repeating phrase played by bass and piano. Compositions such as "Time and Time Again" and "The One Who Makes the Rain Stop" have simpler forms, but all of the compositions serve as catalysts for Harper's passionate, soaring tenor sax, Henderson's energetic trumpet, and Tanksley's McCoy Tyner-influenced piano. This is one of 1997's best releases and a wonderful addition to Harper's slender discography.

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