Everette Harp

What's Going On

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Conventional contemporary wisdom says that performing covers of beloved pop classics is a cheap way to lure the curious. But when care is taken to create an entire imaginative tribute to a great artist, with no two arrangements alike, some latitude should be in order. On his eclectic reworking of all the songs on Marvin Gaye's legendary What's Going On, saxman Everette Harp happily genre-hops between Marvin-esque '70s soul (complete with wah-wah guitar), slow and steady blues, straight-ahead jazz, and hip-hop. As on his previous efforts, Harp reaches his most inspired moments by weaving his trademark edgy alto fire with his lesser-known but still potent talents on EWI and flute, most notably on the trancelike dreamscape of "Flyin' High." Not that he needs much help, but all-star contributions by George Duke, Kirk Whalum, and Najee lead to some of the set's most memorable jamming. In particular, Najee's flute and Harp's sax play a cunning game of cat and mouse on the Latin-flavored "Right On." The only time the name-dropping fails is on "Save the Children," where pretentious spoken vocals by Arsenio Hall and Dawnn Lewis detract from the seductive underlying textures.

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