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Album Review

Great Friends is an artifact. Recorded on July 7, 1986, at Sysmo Studio in Paris, it is the only recorded output of the aggregation that included alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, Stanley Cowell at the piano, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Billy Hart. Until this reissue on the Pennsylvania indie Evidence Music, Great Friends was only available in Europe, on the French label Black & Blue. While led by the bristling tones of Fortune's alto, the recording gives equal time to each musician, allowing its titular egalitarianism to color each of the eight tracks included. Workman's bass solos on Stanley Cowell's "Equipoise" and his own "Synapse," in particular, reveal the clear lines of communication that define this recording. "Equipoise" as a whole is the standout track here; plaintive keys are matched by an urgent, slowly building rhythm that flirts with the saxophone and bass solos, never cresting into the pop crescendo that always seems to lurk just beyond the solo. Billy Harper's "Insight" lets drummer Billy Hart solo for almost a minute before opening up into an incredible interplayed solo between Fortune and Harper. Including as it does some of the fastest playing of the session, "Insight" illustrates the comfortable improvisation between the players. This recording occurred immediately after a European tour, and includes none of the sterility of a studio situation. Fortune, Harper, Cowell, Workman, and Hart hit on all cylinders throughout, often approximating what it must have been like to see these great friends at one of those smoky European clubs.

Customer Reviews

Is it not True Simply Because You Don't Believe It?

Billy Harper is a Jazz Master and has been for over 30 years. If you are an authentic player, you would know the work of Tenor Sax Man Billy Harper. I believe he hails from Texas. He came to NY at the urging of a group of NY Jazz Men on tour in the South West in the late 60's or early seventies. They heard him as a young player and were knocked out .

That being said his composition "Is It Not True Simply Because You Don't Believe It? "is a jazz masterpiece. The time signature is 9/4 and the piece is not tonal but modal. If you want to listen to how a master musician breaks new ground, download this track.

Biography

Born: January 17, 1943 in Houston, TX

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

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. Harper is consummately well-rounded, able to play convincingly in any context, from bop to free. His muscular tone, lithe articulation, comprehensive harmonic knowledge, and unflagging energy define him as a saxophonist. He's also possessed of an abundant imagination that connects directly to his blues and gospel roots. Though not as well-known as he...
Full Bio
Great Friends, Billy Harper
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