Winard Harper

Winard

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Exploring his African roots and jazz branches, drummer Harper kicks it good on this wide-ranging program. There's plenty to satisfy the most discriminating hard bop fan, and percussive spice that offers contrast. Harper is joined by up-and-coming tenor saxophonist JD Allen and trumpeter Patrick Rickman, bassist Eric Revis, the great pianist George Cables, and percussionist Abdou Mboup. On the swinging side, acknowledgements to Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and the Clifford Brown-Max Roach quintet are evident on Reuben Brown's "Float Like a Butterfly," the more neo-bop "Nefer Mine," and the post-modern "Mr. Hyde." Closer to hard bop is a marvelous take on Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," a real stunner. "The Believers," with a long drum solo intro, paraphrases "Love for Sale." Cables gets two features, telling his blues drenched story on the standard "I Fall in Love Too Easily," but especially on the modal, happy, visceral, "Voodoo Lady." He is his usual brilliant self on all the other selections, the perfect complement to the horns or the power that drives them. In the more continental area, Harper cuts Mboup loose on kora and vocals for "Ndaje," or with Revis on "Miles Sebastian." A Serengeti landscape feeling is present on "The Good Life (For Betty Carter)" and more deeply on "Ballad of Salaam." Harper is perfectly willing to be a democratic leader. He allows ample space for the Coltrane-derived Allen and brightly enunciated Rickman to do their thing. Cables is in a class all by himself, Harper steps back, and the music ebbs and flows with the ease of a waterfall. It's another well plotted musical journey in the continuing triptych of one of America's premier young drummers. Recommended.

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