Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Billy Harper - 1979 - The Awakening

Billy Harper 
The Awakening

01. The Awakening
02. Soran Bushi--B.H.
03. Cry Of Hunger

Bass – Louis Spears
Drums – Horacee Arnold
Piano – Fred Hersch
Tenor Saxophone – Billy Harper
Trumpet – Everett Hollins

This 1979 date by tenor saxophonist Billy Harper is one of his most transcendent. Rife with his deep study of Coltrane's modalism, and his own deep knowledge of the blues and Eastern music, Harper and his quintet take on three extended pieces: "Soran Bushi-B.H." comes in at over 12 minutes, while "Cry Of Hunger," is over 20; both work out of extended harmonic architectures to place improvisation as a new element (remember, this was 1979), as an extension of the jazz "song." Trumpeter Everett Hollins, pianist Fred Hersch -- who was by this time already in full command of his great reach and complex sense of harmonic engagement -- Louis Spears on bass, and drummer Horace Arnold delve deep into Harper's muse and come out with a record that sounds like a suite. From the title track, which opens the disc through "Soran Bushi-B.H." to "City Of Hunger," modalism gives way to Senegalese folk themes, and Asian variations on theme, in both harmonic and rhythmic languages. Melodically, this group was messing around with ideas that no one else could -- or probably would -- touch at the time. The interplay between Hersch and Harper is so intimate and instinctual, where Harper's ragged edges coruscate beautifully into Hersch's large chords and deft, tight-hand intrigues. When tempos move from Malian folk modes to stomping gospel-blues shouts, Harper's horn sings against Spears' basslines, which don't so much anchor, as propel forward the rest of the ensemble into the great mystery. This is a winner, top to bottom, and one of the more engaging vanguard jazz outings of the late '70s to come from American soil.

1 comment:

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