Billy Harper

Billy Harper

Musicians | Instrument: Saxophone | Location: New York City

There are two kinds of people. Those who love Billy Harper and those who haven't heard him yet.

—Miles Willis, Jazz Radio Broadcaster

Updated: June 10, 2024

Born: January 17, 1943

Billy Harper's unique music creativity was first noted in Houston, Texas, where, at age 5, he was singing at sacred and secular functions and participating in choral and solo singing events. By age 14, he formed his first Billy Harper Quintet while a student at Evan E. Worthing High School. Graduating cum laude, he went on to study saxophone and music theory at North Texas State University and received his Bachelor of Music degree. He continued graduate studies at NTSU and became a member of their "big band." That year, 1965, the University's big band won first prize at the Kansas Jazz Festival.

Harper moved to New York in 1966 and began attracting attention from some of jazzdom's giants - Gil Evans, Max Roach, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He performed, recorded and toured Europe, Japan, Africa and throughout the United States from 1966 to 1979 with these groups, as well as his own Billy Harper Quintet.

The Billy Harper Quintet began receiving notoriety of its own. In 1966, Harper and his ensemble group were highlighted on the NBC-TV special, "The Big Apple." With more exposure came bigger audiences and bigger demands for appearances.

Throughout Harper's career, there has been a pattern of spiritual growth and innovation. Says Harper: "My feeling is that music should have a purpose. In the past, it always has been used for healing and uplifting and meditation. And that's the way I see my music. I've had people come up after a program to tell me that they felt a spiritual healing from the music. When that happens, then I feel we're fulfilling what we're supposed to do. If people are entertained, that's ok too. But I certainly see a purpose in my music beyond that."

As a teacher and lecturer, Harper has taught at Livingston College and Rutgers University. He has also received a special grant from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts to teach improvisation at 15 high schools. Awards and honors included 3 Music Composition Grants; two from the National Endowment of the Arts, and one from the Creative Arts Program. He also received the International Critics Award for Tenor Saxophone for two years consecutively.

As a recording artist, Billy Harper's album, Black Saint exploded on the international jazz scene in 1976. The reviews all applauded his innovations and prompted the Modern Jazz League of Tokyo to name the album, "Jazz Record of the Year - Voice Grand Prix."


Tags

All About Jazz Articles

10
Radio & Podcasts

Jazz from the Black Saint Label (1975 - 1989)

Read "Jazz from the Black Saint Label (1975 - 1989)" reviewed by Russell Perry


Ironically, the record label that most consistently offered an outlet for the American jazz avant-garde in the 1980s was the Italian Black Saint / Soul Note imprint. On All About Jazz, Jeff Stockton wrote, ..."from 1984 to 1989 Black Saint won the Down Beat critics poll for “Best Label" and “Best Producer" and established itself as the Blue Note of its time, a label whose mark and reputation alone assured the listener that the music would be adventurous, exciting jazz ...

21
Interview

Billy Harper: A Life of Persistence and Improvisation

Read "Billy Harper: A Life of Persistence and Improvisation" reviewed by R.J. DeLuke


On stage, Billy Harper puts his lips to the tenor saxophone, stands relatively erect and sings through his horn; a strong, angular, muscular sound. There little physical gesticulation, belying the effort it takes to express feelings and emotions through the instrument. But Harper's creative statements demand attention. Over the last few years, a lot of that energy is expressed on stage with the Cookers, a star-studded septet that has been burning up the scene, gaining fans and critical ...

254
Album Review

The Cookers: Cast the First Stone

Read "Cast the First Stone" reviewed by Troy Collins


Cast the First Stone is the sophomore follow-up to Warriors (Jazz Legacy Productions, 2010), the debut recording of the all-star ensemble The Cookers, whose name was inspired by the 1965 Blue Note live album series Night of the Cookers. Lending credence to its namesake, this powerhouse septet swings mightily through a series of post-bop originals and a sole cover, bolstered by the presence of special guest, acclaimed saxophonist Azar Lawrence, whose recent resurgence has found the renowned firebrand in riveting ...

433
Album Review

Billy Harper: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2

Read "Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2" reviewed by George Kanzler


Tenor saxophonist Billy Harper has been keeping the jazz fires kindled by the ritualistic, incantatory side of the classic John Coltrane Quartet stoked and burning bright for over a quarter-century. Here Harper's working quintet, augmented by a second bassist, presents a program redolent of the processional and the chant. Over it all, Harper's coruscating, brawny tenor strides like a colossus (only Sonny Rollins may have a richer, fuller tone) with a charged intensity matching the roiling, loping, massed rhythms of ...

720
Multiple Reviews

Mike Clark, Billy Harper, Donald Bailey: Blueprints of Jazz

Read "Mike Clark, Billy Harper, Donald Bailey: Blueprints of Jazz" reviewed by Woodrow Wilkins


Three discs, three creative artists, one concept--Blueprints of Jazz presents some of jazz music's eminently worthy but less widely known innovators. Tenor saxophonist Billy Harper and drummers Mike Clark and Donald Bailey have been fixtures on the jazz scene from 1950s through the 1970s, and they still produce fresh sounds.

Mike Clark Blueprints of Jazz, Volume 1 Talking House Records 2008

Mike Clark is probably best known for his work ...

887
Interview

Billy Harper

Read "Billy Harper" reviewed by Russ Musto


Billy Harper has one of the most impressive resumes in jazz, including stints with Gil Evans, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Lee Morgan, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Charles Tolliver and Randy Weston, but it is his unique sound on the tenor and distinctive style as a composer that has brought him international acclaim and truly sets him apart from most other players.

All About Jazz: Let's start with some of the things you've been up to lately?

127
Album Review

Charles Earland: Intensity

Read "Intensity" reviewed by AAJ Staff


You hear it at once: a different sound, not always for the better. The music was changing, and Charles Earland joined his easy groove to the lush CTI sound so popular at the time. Results vary: the Burner is hot but too many horns spoil the brew. Take “Goin' Home": a rock guitar crashes through the left speaker, and Charles steps coolly behind him. Now he works the chords for warm strength: the feel of his Black Talk! album. But ...

Read more articles
1

Performance / Tour

World-Renowned Smoke Jazz Club Kickstarts The New Year Celebrating Two Jazz Giants’ Birthdays: Billy Harper And Al Foster

World-Renowned Smoke Jazz Club Kickstarts The New Year Celebrating Two Jazz Giants’ Birthdays: Billy Harper And Al Foster

Source: AMT Public Relations

Rated the #1 jazz club in New York City (Secret NYC), SMOKE Jazz Club begins 2024 with an exciting line-up in January. The month begins with two piano greats: Bill Charlap leading his longtime Trio (Jan 3-7) followed by renowned pianist/composer Billy Childs and his Quartet (Jan 11-14). SMOKE is honored to host two octogenarians celebrating their 81st birthdays in back-to-back concert celebrations: tenor saxophone giant Billy Harper leads his Quintet (Jan 18-21) then drumming master Al Foster is at ...

3

Performance / Tour

World-Renowned SMOKE Jazz Club Begins The New Year With 80th Birthday Celebrations For Billy Harper And Al Foster, The 10th Annual Coltrane Festival, And More

World-Renowned SMOKE Jazz Club Begins The New Year With 80th Birthday Celebrations For Billy Harper And Al Foster, The 10th Annual Coltrane Festival, And More

Source: AMT Public Relations

January 2023 Schedule Sunday, January 1 Coltrane Festival featuring Jeremy Pelt with the Eric Reed / Vincent Herring Quintet Jeremy Pelt: trumpet Vincent Herring: alto & tenor saxophone Eric Reed: piano John Webber: bass Joe Farnsworth: drums SMOKE’s 10th annual Coltrane Festival continues with featured guest trumpeter Jeremy Pelt joining the Eric Reed/Vincent Herring Quintet. JazzTimes says, “Pelt is a technical marvel. He executes intricate solos with ease, plays gorgeous ballads in a tasteful manner, ...

4

Performance / Tour

Strata-East At 50! June 16th With Narrator Danny Glover, Charles Tolliver, Billy Harper, George Cables, Buster Williams, Lenny White & Special Guests!

Strata-East At 50! June 16th With Narrator Danny Glover, Charles Tolliver, Billy Harper, George Cables, Buster Williams, Lenny White & Special Guests!

Source: Scott Thompson Public Relations

Strata-East Records celebrate 50 years of amazing Jazz on June 16th at 7:30pm EDT. Price: $20. Day of show $25. The performance will be available on-demand for 48 hours starting June 17th at 12:00 AM EDT. Strata-East @ 50 featuring Charles Tolliver, Billy Harper, George Cables, Buster Williams, Lenny White and special guest Danny Glover! Strata-East Records, now in its 50th year, was created by Charles Tolliver & Stanley Cowell. Their first recording in 1970, “Music Inc" & Big Band, ...

6

Performance / Tour

Randy Weston & Billy Harper Highlights In Jazz Thursday, June 11th 8pm @ Tribeca Performing Arts

Randy Weston & Billy Harper Highlights In Jazz Thursday, June 11th 8pm @ Tribeca Performing Arts

Source: Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services

Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights In Jazz, New York’s longest running jazz concert series, concludes its 43rd season on Thursday June 11, 2015 at 8:00 PM in the Tribeca Performing Arts Center at Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street, NY, 10007 with Jazz Past & Present, a multigenerational double bill featuring the incomparable duo of, pianist Randy Weston and tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, performing a program including selections from their critically acclaimed album The Roots of the Blues. Sharing the ...

1

Performance / Tour

Randy Weston & Billy Harper Appearing At Highlights In Jazz

Randy Weston & Billy Harper Appearing At Highlights In Jazz

Source: Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services

Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights In Jazz—New York’s Longest Running Jazz Concert Series—concludes its 43rd Season with Jazz, Past & Present, a historic double bill featuring NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston with Billy Harper performing The Roots of the Blues and Highlights In Jazz New Stars Benny Benack, Steven Frieder, Dylan Meek, Devin Starks & Kosta Galanopoulos plus a very special surprise guest. Thursday, June 11, 2015 at 8 pm at Tribeca Performing Arts Center of Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 ...

109

Performance / Tour

Billy Harper Quintet to appear at Montgomery County Community College (Bluebell, PA) on October 15

Billy Harper Quintet to appear at Montgomery County Community College (Bluebell, PA) on October 15

Source: Helen Haynes

Blue Bell, PA: Montgomery County Community College's Lively Arts Series will present the Billy Harper Quintet, Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 8PM at Science Center Theatre. Billy Harper is one of a generation of Coltrane-influenced tenor saxophonists who actually built upon the master's work, rather than simply copy it. His 1973 album Capra Black “remains one of the seminal recordings of jazz's black consciousness movement—a profoundly spiritual effort that channels both the intellectual complexity of the avant-garde as well as ...

73

Radio

The Jazz Session #265: Billy Harper

The Jazz Session #265: Billy Harper

Source: AAJ Staff


153

Recording

Billy Harper:Blueprints of Jazz Vol. 2

Billy Harper:Blueprints of Jazz Vol. 2

Source: JamBase

By: Trevor Pour

Talking House Records' second installment of the Blueprints of Jazz series features distinguished tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, an artist who draws a great deal of his stylistic influence from the evolving works of John Coltrane and from his own frequent collaborations with partner Art Blakey. Harper has remained an active composer and performer since his introduction to the bebop/jazz scene in the late 1960s, specifically contributing to the advancement of free jazz and jazz/rock during his time ...

398

Contest

Enter the Talking House Records "Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 1-3" Giveaway Contest

Enter the Talking House Records "Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 1-3" Giveaway Contest

Source: All About Jazz

All About Jazz members are invited to enter the Talking House Records “Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 1-3“ giveaway contest starting today. We'll select FIVE winners at the conclusion of the contest on April 26th. Click here to enter the contest

(Following Billy Harper at AAJ automatically enters you in the contest.)

Good luck! Your Friends at Talking House Records

Mike Clark - Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 1 Mike Clark made his mark on the jazz scene ...

Artists who share similar musical characteristics to Billy Harper.

Tony Passarell
multi-instrumentalist
Chris Pitts
saxophone, tenor
Tyler Levy Sniff
saxophone, tenor

Contact

Management and booking

For all bookings, interviews, lectures or lessons please send your inquiries to [email protected].

Billy Harper and the Billy Harper Quintet are managed by Morana Mesic (LyHarp Music LLC).

Links

Followers

All About Jazz user Justin Vargo All About Jazz user Edward Zucker All About Jazz user Vincent Perron All About Jazz user Borys Janczarski All About Jazz user Dave Linn All About Jazz user Robert McNeice All About Jazz user Charlie Watkins All About Jazz user Rob Scheps All About Jazz user Georg Cocron All About Jazz user Hrayr Attarian All About Jazz user STEVE KRAWITZ All About Jazz user Billy Harper All About Jazz user Ronald Manley All About Jazz user David C. J. White

Concerts

  Sat, Jun 22
Baltimore, MD
T.K. Blue Collective with Special Guest...
Caton Castle
Sat, Jun 22. 6:00 pm
  Fri, Jul 5
Tarrytown, NY
Billy Harper Quintet
Jazz Forum
Fri, Jul 5. 7:00 pm
  Sat, Jul 6
Tarrytown, NY
Billy Harper Quintet
Jazz Forum
Sat, Jul 6. 7:00 pm
  Mon, Jul 8
Hartford, CT
Billy Harper Quintet
Bushnell Park
Mon, Jul 8. 7:00 pm
  Wed, Aug 28
New York, NY
Billy Harper Quintet
Saint Peter's Church
Wed, Aug 28. 12:30 pm
  Fri, Aug 30
Chicago, IL
Billy Harper Quintet
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Fri, Aug 30. 5:00 pm
  Fri, Nov 8
Philadelphia, PA
Billy Harper Quintet Plays Black Saint
Solar Myth
Fri, Nov 8. 7:00 pm
  Sat, Nov 9
Philadelphia, PA
Billy Harper Quintet Plays The Believer
Solar Myth
Sat, Nov 9. 7:00 pm

Music