Billy Harper/Tenor Saxophone, Eddie Henderson/Trumpet, Francesca Tanksley/Piano, Hwansu Kang/Bass and Aaron Scott/Drums
Since arriving in NYC in 1966 Harper attracted the 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 The Billy Harper Quintet which was 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….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 okay too. But I certainly see a purpose in my music beyond that.”
Harper has taught at Livingston College, Rutgers University, and The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. He has received grants from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts to teach improvisation in high schools, National Endowment of the Arts, and the Creative Arts Program. He received two International Critics Award for Tenor Saxophone.
As a recording artist, Billy Harper’s album, “Black Saint” exploded on the international jazz scene in 1976. The reviews applauded his innovations and prompted the Modern Jazz League of Tokyo to name the album, “Jazz Record of the Year – Voice Grand Prix.”