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Billy Harper Quintet – Live In Hamburg – 1976 – Past Daily Downbeat

Billy Harper Quintet - live in Hamburg 1976
Billy Harper – Hard-as-nails sound, but strictly from the heart.

Billy Harper Quintet – live in Hamburg – Recorded May 23, 1976 – NDR-Radio, Hamburg – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Billy Harper Quintet this weekend, featuring Everett Hollins on trumpet, Joe Bonner on Piano, Wayne Dockery on bass and Malcolm Pinson on drukms. Recorded live in Hamburg by North German Radio on May 223, 1976.

I confess to not being as familiar with the music of Billy Harper as I need to be. Considered by many to be one of a generation of John Coltrane-influenced tenor players with a hard-as-nails edge – I found there was a lot of heart tucked into those hard-as-nails notes and certainly worth frequent explorations in the future.

A bit about Harper as presented by Wikipedia, who cover much ground and lay out an impressive body of work as well as noteworthy collaborations:

Harper has played with some of jazz’s greatest drummers; he served with Art Blakey’s Messengers for two years (1968–1970); he played very briefly with Elvin Jones (1970), he played with the Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra in the 1970s, and was a member of Max Roach’s quartet from 1971–1978. In 1979, Harper formed his own group, touring with it and documenting its music on the recording Billy Harper Quintet in Europe, and he was featured as a soloist on a 1983 recording, Such Great Friends, with virtuoso, visionary pianist and record producer Stanley Cowell. After a period of relative inactivity in the 1980s, Harper came back strong with another international tour, which ended with perhaps his most ambitious recording: the three-volume Live on Tour in the Far East (1991). In the new millennium, Harper’s recording activity has been subdued and sporadic, though more recently he appeared as a regular member of pianist-jazz historian Randy Weston’s ensembles. In 2013, they recorded their first album as a duo, entitled The Roots of the Blues.

A retrospective of Billy Harper’s career would include the following among its highlights: The saxophonist performed on Gil Evans’ 1973 album Svengali, and contributed two of the most-performed tunes in the band’s repertoire: “Priestess” and “Thoroughbred”. Harper’s own 1973 album Capra Black “remains one of the seminal recordings of jazz’s black consciousness movement – a profoundly spiritual effort that channels both the intellectual complexity of the avant garde as well as the emotional potency of gospel”. The Italian jazz label Black Saint was launched with Harper’s 1975 album, Black Saint. His later releases have mostly been on SteepleChase and Evidence Records.

Long associated almost exclusively with the inner circle of the New York City jazz scene — except for breaks while touring with his ensembles to Europe and the far East — Harper, in mid-2017, suddenly attained a degree of international prominence, because of his short but key role in the acclaimed jazz film, I Called Him Morgan. Released for home streaming and purchase in June 2017, the film documents the music and life of trumpet prodigy Lee Morgan and the woman who saves and restores him after he hit rock bottom due to heroin addiction. It is a movie that makes the viewer a partner with its Swedish director, in his seven-year search for the evidence that might help explain how the same woman who was Morgan’s savior, would become his killer at the instant he was retaking the bandstand for the last set at Slug’s Saloon, a jazz club on the Bowery in lower East Manhattan. Walking right alongside Lee Morgan at this moment — the someone who hears a “bang” that for the next several extended seconds leaves both men — the actual victim and the bandmate — equally stunned and confused — was Billy Harper.

Dive in.

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