Rich Scheinin on Billy Harper

I’ve got Mr. Billy Harper on my mind, of course.


After Richard Scheinin contributed the Cecil Taylor essay to DTM, Rich mentioned that he was a friend and admirer of Harper. He has also written the liner notes to several Harper albums, and there are online essays for the Mercury News:

Like a Bolt of Truth from Above

Art Blakey told him, ‘Billy, I’m your favorite fan.”

Profile from 1996

Rich also curated a selection of Harper videos, saying, “Billy is a great guy and a genius, I think. Among living players, especially from that era, I’d say he and McCoy are my faves…”

[the rest of this post is Richard Scheinin’s commentary, thank you so much, Richard!]

With Thad and Mel. Billy comes in at 4:46 and — bam! Takes your head off.

Another with Thad and Mel, “Don’t Get Sassy.” Billy comes in at 4:20 and plays the blues. This one builds; the band eventually sits out and just lets BH blow:

With Lee Morgan, early ’70s on “Soul,” which was an amazing show on Channel 13 in NYC. I remember watching this episode when I was in high school; it was the first time I saw Billy play. He’s on flute on the first number, back on tenor for “Angela,” which he recorded with Morgan on Lee’s final album. The quality of the video is terrible, but this is history, right? With Mabern, Jymie Merritt, Freddie Waits:

With Gil Evans at Umbria in 1974. The band plays Billy’s “Priestess,” and Billy enters at 3:51. The usual majesty and fire:

With Max Roach’s great quartet (BH, Workman, Bridgewater), with which Billy spent most of the ’70s. He comes in at 19:34. What focus:

With Blakey: There used to be great video on YouTube of Harper with Blakey and the Messengers in Copenhagen in ’68. It seems to have been taken down. Well, people may already know this one from the bootleg album: this is Harper, all of 25 years old, playing “Angel Eyes” with Art Blakey at Slugs’ in 1968. Just audio:

I wish there was video available of Harper leading his own group in the ’70s — THAT was something. Maybe Billy has it; I can’t find it. Oh, well. People probably know this from the record: “The Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart.” I’ve heard this a thousand times and it still gives me the chills:

Of course, he continues to play fabulously.

This is Billy’s group, performing in Poland, 10 or 15 years ago. His working quintet was augmented by several horns and there’s a full chorus, too. “The Awakening.” More chills:

Billy’s been playing with Randy Weston for 45 years. Here’s great footage from 2011 at the United Nations. I love the interplay with Talib Kibwe (TK Blue), who’s on alto:

Recent video by the Cookers, playing Billy’s “Sir Galahad.” The whole band is on. Jabali! This is one of Harper’s classic tunes, first recorded on “Capra Black.”