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Blueprints of Jazz Vol. 1 by Billy Harper

Talking House Records has issued three volumes of new material under the moniker Blueprints of Jazz, by artists who have made a huge impact, either as first-call session musicians or as leaders. Vol. 1 highlights jazz, super-funk and ex-Headhunters drummer Mike Clark directing a revved up ensemble. He is purportedly one of the most sampled drummers of the new age. Then fabled drummer Donald "Duck" Bailey steers a hot group on Vol. 3. And with Vol. 2, highly-revered tenor saxophonist Billy Harper drives an oscillating septet vibe that sports a broad wall of sound.

Featuring poet and jazz luminary Amiri Baraka's hip, spoken word atop several pieces, Harper's yearning sax lines spark notions of Trane to complement his band-mates zesty support amid climactic choruses often designed with memorably melodic themes. the saxophonist's blustery lines transmit a commanding presence whether he's generating a late night club vibe on the sublime ballad "Thoughts and Slow Actions," or blowing the roof down atop the pulsating mid-tempo piece, "Time and Time Again."

The entire album is engineered upon a forward moving impetus, where the saxophonist translucently fuses a slight edge with lush phrasings and spiritually enacted motifs. Trumpeter Keyon Harrold looms as a strong foil who often counters Harper's solo spots with blistering extended notes and ascending improv. And when Baraka iterates anecdotes of legendary jazz stars and other topics, the producers judiciously lower the music mix to accommodate the poet's clarity of expression.

Harper has performed with a who's who of progressive jazz stars and while influence by Trane, he's always maintained a soul-stirring gait that projects a signature style and mode of attack. Simply stated, this 2009 release signifies a radiant viewpoint of the man's mega-talented persona. It provides a degree of hope and respite during these troubling times.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Billy Harper
  • CD Title: Blueprints of Jazz Vol. 1
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Talking House Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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