Sunday, January 18, 2009

Billy Harper - In Europe, Vol. 1 (Soul Note, 1979)

This is some more of my favorite type of jazz, strong and muscular yet still thoughtful and in control. Tenor saxophonist and composer Billy Harper is one of the musicians that came of age in the generation after John Coltrane and got a little lost in the shuffle, despite immense talent. Much like Eric Dolphy took the lessons of Charlie Parker and used them to construct his own voice, Harper takes both the musical and spiritual lessons of John Coltrane and applies them to his music, creating huge swaths of music that has immense power. The opening "Priestess" has strong full bodied piano playing in a McCoy Tyner-ish mode, supporting some deep strong trumpet and tenor saxophone. "Cavalry" has an amazingly deep and strong tenor saxophone solo - Harper seems to be able to draw from a limitless well of strength and ideas in his solos and the impact is amazing. The twenty minute plus epic "Illumination" concludes the album with an awesome performance of passion and thoughtfully applied power, with Harper cutting a blazing Coltrane like solo and playing both with wild abandon and yet complete control throughout. It's an awesome, hair-raising performance, and the entire album is a masterwork of modal jazz. This is very inspiring and endlessly fascinating music.

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