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Billy Harper

Billy Harper is the greatest living Texas tenor saxophonist.

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In his early recordings and performances with leaders such as Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Max Roach, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Randy Weston and Gil Evans, during the 60s and 70s, Billy Harper already had a massive sound on the tenor saxophone, combining John Coltrane’s spiraling intensity with a bluesy brawn that pointed back to his Texas origins. Harper’s authority has only grown with age: a half-century on, he stands as one of the most commanding horn men on the planet, a pillar of stirring post-bop jazz whose robust back catalog seems long overdue for rediscovery. For half a century he has been performing his original music with the renowned Billy Harper Quintet all over the globe, and recording over a dozen albums as a leader and prolific composer. After a pandemic induced hiatus, the Quintet sprang back into action, beginning in 2023 with a series of #CapraBlackIsBack performances, that marked a year-long celebration of Billy Harper's 80th birthday. Along with this milestone, an additional cause for celebratiom was the 50th anniversary of the Billy Harper Quintet's official inception and the release of the group's historic debut album, Capra Black, the impact of which still lingers among jazz listeners worldwide. Francesca Tanksley has been the pianist in this group for more than 40 years – a clear attestation of the wide ranging concensus that her extraordinary musicality cannot be matched nor replaced when it comes to Billy Harper’s opus. Renowned master drummer Aaron Scott, a longtime member of McCoy Tyner’s band, has also performed with the group for decades. A rare find among jazz drummers, Scott meets and surpasses the challenge of doing Harper’s music justice. Freddie Hendrix, one of the most in-demand jazz trumpeters of today, coveted for his uniquely soulful and exciting improvisations is also a longstanding member. Finally, a more recently but nevertheless perfectly matched addition to the group is the award-winning bassist Dezron Douglas, whose artistry on the acoustic bass brings Harper’s compositions to a whole new level.

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