Winard Harper's newest recording Make It Happen, on Piadrum records is simply not for everyone. It is only for those who really love music, have a real taste for jazz and cannot think of anything that makes their lives worth the living more than spending time listening to a real master of their instrument. If you do not fall into any of those categories, you can stop reading now and save yourself some time. If on the other hand you are someone who does fall into that group well read on and enjoy.
Winard Harper is known as not only one the hardest working jazz musicians today , he is also a respected band leader and sideman. Make It Happen is an astonishing journey into the mind and soul of this artist, and with Harper you get a little of everything. African percussion, Caribbean Soul, lush ballads , bop, you name it he can play it. Backed by some exceptional players in the sextet this recording embraces you from the start and feels like a spiritual experience as much a jazz record.
The album opens with Charlie Parker's "Segment" and from the very first beat you sit up and take notice. The other worldly percussion playing mixed with the brass and piano leave you breathless at the end. "This music is all about heart. You have to reach out and be able to pull things out of yourself and touch people. Your heart has to be right. That is different for everybody. I get there by connecting with the Creator through prayer, connecting with people, connecting with myself. I can most certainly hear it if a musician doesn't have heart. Can't you? Sometimes you hear a musician who has the music in his head, but it ain't in their heart yet." Truer words were never spoken, and if there is one thing that this man does not lack is heart.
"Make It Happen" the title track goes from the sound of a didgeridoo and balafon and slowly works its way up to a crescendo then back down again to just where it all started, a fun number and one that I think you should play loudly and often. From there is the really heartfelt and lovely ballad "Tamisha". This song is a love song to the saxophone and is a very intimate respite from the harder driving numbers around it. "I've Never Been In Love Before" is a great companion number, a gentle swing and again some stand out horn playing here as well, each number on this album has a gem or two or three hidden among songs, the joy is finding a new one with each listen.
OK so I enjoy listening to drummers, I myself have no rhythm but that does not mean I cannot appreciate those who do, and envy them at the same time. "BangBangBoomBoomBapBap", (the longest title on the disk) is the showcase number. An amazing solo performance that makes you stand there with your mouth open at the shear joy of it. What makes it better is that it is all improvised. Says Harper, "That is the beauty of jazz music,it is all conversation". Amen to that.
"After Hours" a real bluesy number with stand out piano playing by T.W. Sample, conjures up some smoky nightclub in New York on a hot and steamy Saturday night. You can feel the crowd spilling into the streets and people just swaying to the music. If you listen close enough you can hear the players calling out during the number, the beat is infectious and impossible to resist.
The disk closes with "The Prayer" this has a heavy Afro-Caribbean beat and it is another one of those numbers that permeates this recording with the joy of living and the magic that is music. I'll let Mr Harper explain. "Jazz is a very spiritual and powerful music. I think about the lives that I am around and that I see the music touch. Those people hold jazz dear and it helps them. You don't see a bunch of negativity in jazz. As Jimmy heath once told me. 'Jazz is the greatest example of democracy that you will ever see'. With jazz you see every race and ethnicity on stage working to create one thing. Whatever you put yourself around, that is what rubs off on you and influences you."
Make It Happen by the Winard Harper Sextet is not only good music it is good for what ails you, and the world.