Drummer WINARD HARPER is passionate about jazz. “This music is powerful,” he says. “It can do a lot of good for people. If they’d spend some time each day listening to it, we would see many changes in the world.”
Inspired by the musicianship of greats such as Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Jackie McLean, Cannonball Adderley, Dr. Billy Taylor, Art Blakey and Billy Higgins, Harper has been the leader and musical inspiration for a vibrant sextet for almost a decade. The group appears regularly all over the United States from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to Yoshi’s, the legendary West Coast jazz club. Although clearly the dominant force behind this extraordinarily gifted ensemble, Harper has surrounded himself with superbly talented young guardians of the jazz tradition (including Lawrence Clark, Ameen Saleem, Josh Evans, Stacy Dillard and Alioune Faye), who are as entertaining to watch as they are to listen to.
Harper’s first major gig was with Dexter Gordon in 1982, and shortly thereafter with Johnny Griffin. It wasn’t long before his drumming skills captured the attention of Betty Carter. He spent four years working with Ms. Carter’s band, inevitably honing his jazz-as-entertainment sense of showmanship.
“With Betty I learned consistency and persistence,” Harper recalls. “Working with her prepared me to become a bandleader; I learned a lot about the business from her. When I left Betty’s band, I came out with enough information to get the Harper Brothers on the way. She gave me the inside track on bookings, clubs, most of the places we worked were the same places I worked with her.”
During the 1980s while Winard worked as a sideman to such jazz legends as Ray Bryant, Abdullah Ibrahim, Pharoah Sanders and Clifford Jordan, he also laid the foundation for what would become The Harper Brothers band. He and his brother Philip launched a band that would blaze a brilliant trail both on the charts and on the international touring circuit.
“Man for man, The Harper Brothers Quintet … is the most brilliant new jazz group of the new decade,” declared Leonard Feather in his review of the band’s Los Angeles performance in early 1990. Remembrance, the band’s second album went to #1 on Billboard’s jazz chart in 1991.
Piadrum recording artist Winard Harper is one of the hardest working drummers in jazz today, not only leading his very exciting and hard-swinging sextet, but also continuing as an in-demand sideman. When not touring with his band, Harper continues to work and record with such artists such as Joe Lovano, Avery Sharpe, Steve Turre, Wycliffe Gordon, Frank Wess, Ray Bryant, and Jimmy Heath. His newest CD, Make It Happen, goes further than any of his previous six releases to highlight his talent as drummer, composer and bandleader.
Showtimes: 7:30pm and 9:30pm Admission: $32.