Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Billy Harper - Love on the Sudan (BH Fan Club, 2009)

Saxophonist Billy Harper and his fan club (how great is it that a jazz musician has a fan club!) are doing a wonderful service to jazz fans by reissuing his older recordings as compact discs and digital downloads. Harper has been one of the torchbearers on the John Coltrane school of tenor saxophone, blowing lengthy modal and free improvisations that have a deeply soulful and spiritual feel. This session was cut in the late 1970's and finds Harper performing with Everett Hollins on trumpet, Mickey Tucker on piano, Gregg Maker on bass, and Malcolm Pinson on drums. The album opens with "Awakening" which is very aptly named as the music slowly builds in intensity, moving between sections of unaccompanied saxophone and strong and deep full band improvisation. This performance sounds like an incantation with echoes of great Coltrane compositions like "Wise One" and "Crescent." The vibe is deeply spiritual, but far from derivative, Harper is deeply influenced by Coltrane but he brings his own unique conception to the music. "Priestess" is a riveting performance with the full band playing the distinctive melody. Harper lets loose with a scorching tenor solo buoyed by powerful piano comping from Tucker and great support from the band riffing beneath him. "Love on the Sudan" has a yearning and emotional melody, building to an impressive tenor feature and then solos for supple trumpet and a lengthy rippling piano solo. This is a very enjoyable album of strong modal jazz. It is great to have Harper's late 70's albums in print again, they show the continued development of his music after he burst on the scene with classic albums for the Black Saint label in the early part of the decade.
Love On The Sudan - amazon.com

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