Make It Happen 


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        Radio add date 8/15/2006

JazzWeek Jazz chart - #6 week of 9/11/06

JazzWeek Jazz chart - #31 week of 10/16/06

143+ Stations In Play as of 10/12/06

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JazzWeek College Jazz Chart - # 35 as of 9/28/06




Buffalo News

"Sextet" isn't the half of it. Look at the personnel listing on the back, and you'll find no less than 13 musicians in various combinations and arrays who participated in this feisty and winning new disc by the 44-year-old drummer. Nor is this all just the same old, same old - mainstream neo-bop served up with strenuously "fresh" harmonic voicings that would have bored Stravinsky down to his embroidered silk socks. It leaps in with a ripping version of "Segment," one of Charlie Parker's better but more weirdly ignored melodic slaloms. Thirteen tunes later when Winard lets his pianist T. W. Sample lead them all through a raunchy and soul-tickling version of Avery Parrish's "After Hours," you've been all over the stylistic jazz map with Harper and his buddies. ("The African and Caribbean sound" is the disc's description of its own contents, which is accurate enough except that it bypasses the influences of the music of at least two other continents.) And a splendid posse it is in Harper's company - particularly alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon (who does his best to bring the house down on "After Hours") and tenor saxophonists Stacy Dillard and Lawrence Clark. Harper points to Art Blakey and Billy Higgins as his inspirations and, in his case, that's not just empty "me-tooing." He's a gut-level musical communicator a la Blakey and a pan-ethnic percussion polymorph a la Higgins. Harper knows how much resistance he's up against as a new 2006 kind of "jazz messenger." Accordingly, in the 78 minutes of music on this disc, almost everything is kept in the five- and six-minute neighborhood. It's a Whitman's sampler of what a great young jazz drummer and leader can do, and it couldn't be tastier.

- Buffalo News - Jeff Simon  6/06


Chicago Defender

In the jazz idiom, very few master musicians have held the title of leader while pounding out the heartbeat of any great band behind the drum set since legends Art Blakey and Max Roach.

Winard Harper, however, has proven since the late ‘80s to be one of the true great bandleaders who sits behind a drum kit while pushing his ensemble to explore international sounds ranging from African to Caribbean to Afro-Cuban, all wrapped around the core of Hard Bop jazz.

Chicagoans will get to experience the full spectrum of Harper’s rhythms Tuesday through Sunday during his six-day engagement at the famous Joel Siegel’s Jazz Showcase club, 59 W. Grand Ave. Harper told the Defender Friday - speaking from his New Jersey digs - that he won’t veer from what he usually brings when requested to play in the Windy City.

“Hopefully as always, (we’ll bring) good music and an exciting time” Harper said. “But it’s a young an exciting band. At this time I’m working hard trying to keep the tradition going of giving younger artists a place to develop. I’m trying to create an environment where the guys can spend about three to four years and move on.  “They may have to stay longer because the industry and the market are not supporting (jazz music) like they did several years ago. When we came on the scene, there were not a lot of bands, but a lot of places to play. Now, there are a lot of bands, but not a lot of places to play.” The tradition of letting younger musicians develop and grow into their own leaders has been a tried and true concept for Harper in his own development as an internationally renowned and well-respected musician.

One just needs to go down the who’s who list of jazz legends and chances are you will find that the 44-year-old drummer held down the beat for those artists. Some on the list include: the late saxophonist colossus Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane’s disciple Pharoah Sanders, pianists Ray Bryant and Tommy Flanagan and tenor-saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman (long-time key musician in Ray Charles’ band).

But it’s Harper’s long-time association with the late great jazz singer Betty Carter that shaped him in more ways than just developing his music chops. “With some people, you may learn more about the music,” Harper said. “Betty was a good band leader and I learned a lot about the business working for her.”

Harper continues to incorporate his love for African rhythms into the music, as he always have over the three decades he been a professional bandleader, starting off with his older brother Philip Harper and the legendary ‘80s Harper Brothers ensemble. He hasn’t had to compromise his music by adding the African element, he said.

Harper’s latest sextet albums, “Make it Happen,” (Piadrum) consists of four additional percussionists mixing intoxicating rhythms with the trap-drum, bass, piano and horn section.

“The Hardest thing about recordings is the budget,” Harper said. “But this new label helped me explore and take some risks. And an African percussionist has been in my touring bands for the last eight years. That is one of the things (drummer) Billy Higgins inspired me about, looking ahead and incorporating African rhythms.” ...

- Chicago Defender - Demetrius Patterson  7/06



For a portion of Make it Happen, seasoned jazz drummer Harper seems to be really on to something: augmenting standard trap drums with an array of exotic percussion. These world-music touches lend an air of exotica to what is essentially a conventional, horn-heavy post-bop album. "Children of the World" features a loping beat driven by an African talking drum that melds beautifully with its more orthodox jazz melody to create a truly beguiling piece of music. Problem is, Harper doesn't go to the well enough. There are too many standardized renditions of standards and jazz originals that, while ably performed, don't attain the same level of innovation or excitement.

- - Eric Snider  7/06




Prior to his launching of “The Harper Brothers Quintet,” drummer Winard Harper commenced his then, budding career with sax god, Dexter Gordon. And he proceeded to hone his performing persona with vocal great, Betty Carter. Nonetheless, Harper is a jazz firebrand who shines as a passionate student of the art form. On this divergent release, he conveys his multifaceted abilities with snappy fills while steering his band thru brisk bop-vamps and more!

With punchy horns choruses and radiant soloing by trumpeter Josh Evans and alto saxophonist Antonio Hart among others, the changeable sextet abides by an up-tempo disposition. On this endeavor, the musicians partake in warmly stated balladry, African percussion vamps and gritty organ grooves, coupled with Harper’s variable rhythmic forays. Variety is the key, as the ensemble covers a gamut of cross-cultural, jazz induced mechanisms. Either way, Harper is a dashing drummer who encompasses traditional mainstream stylizations with elements of flash and élan.

The musicians periodically throttle the energetic proceedings back a step or two via blithely arranged, toe-tapping grooves. But on the turbo-charged swing/bop numbers, the drummer often injects multihued accents with zippy fills. On the piece titled “After Hours,” pianist T.W. Sample renders a Professor Longhair motif amid a drawling, walking-blues pattern. Overall, Harper’s methodology translates into a smashing success, brimming with a charismatic sound and scope, largely driven by finesse and sheer firepower.

- - Glenn Astarita  7/06


The Skanner

This is a radically different Winard Harper aggregation from the bands he brought in times past to Seattle and Portland.

Most importantly, he has two new horn players - tenorist Lawrence Clark and trumpeter Josh Evans, a pair that are talented plus.  And on this recording, he adds alto saxophonist Antonio Hart on three tracks.  Hart evokes Cannonball Adderley with his driving solo on "I've Never Been in Love Before."  Harper also employs tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard on a pair: "Segment" and "chronic Mistake."

Harper uses Wycliffe Gordon on trombone on three tracks and his didgeridoo on the title tune, "Make it Happen."  If that isn't enough, there is also a four person percussive section in addition to Harper's drums.  "Children of the World" features Clark's tenor, and he makes the most of the opportunity to stretch out, as does Evans on trumpet.  Pianist T.W. Sample recreates Avery Parrish's "After Hours," which is more percussive than the original but maintains its empathy.  Gordon's trombone growls his way through a chorus, as do Clark and Evans.

"The Prayer" is the last of 15 tracks, with Harper opening on balafon, a West African instrument that is both percussive and melodic and gets its sound from a set of tone bars laid across a frame and struck with a mallet.  It concludes a wonderful recorded program with solid compositions excellently executed by fine musicians. 

- The Skanner - Dick Bogle  (*****) 7/06




Winard Harper is a talented drummer whose influences include Art Blakey, Max Roach, Jackie McLean, and Cannonball Adderley, but whose most profound influence is drummer Billy Higgins. Higgins influenced Harper not only as a drummer, but as a musician whose sense of joy and discovery was palpable, both live and on record. In addition, Higgins was interested in music from all over the world and in sometimes-exotic instruments. All of these influences come across on the latest recording by the Winard Harper Sextet, Make It Happen.

This disc truly has the appeal of an instant classic. Exploring African and Carribean rhythms in compositions by Harper, various band members, special guests, and jazz greats, the band provides a nearly perfect seventy-eight minute program of music. Released on the small independent label Piadrum, this is nonetheless one of the best jazz small group recordings to arrive during the course of the year thus far.

The opener, Charlie Parker’s “Segment” features a bebop front line playing over a rhythm section that displays distinctly West Indian overtones. Stacy Dillard provides a meaty tenor solo over this rhythmic crosscurrent, followed by the straight-ahead bop statement from trumpeter Josh Evans. Pianist Sean Higgins provides a montuno section that leads into his own hard-driving solo before the head returns. Ruben Browne’s “Children of the World” opens with a salvo of talking drum, conga, and various other percussion instruments. “This is the first time I have been able to put all of the percussionists together on one record” says Harper, referring to the four percussionists featured on Make It Happen. T.W. Sample’s piano work brings a McCoy Tyner edge to the proceedings, and the tune’s modal melody is vaguely Trane-ish.

Guests abound on this recording, including alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, who contributes his playing to “Morning Glow,” “Tamisha,” and “I’ve Never Been In Love Before.” Wycliffe Gordon plays trombone on “Make It Happen,” his own composition “Get It! Get It!,” and “After Hours.” He also contributes an introduction on didgeridoo to the title track, a world music experiment that morphs into a very funky track with some fine keyboard work from T.W. Sample. What’s so great about this CD is that the music goes from style to style seemingly organically. There’s never a sense that the musicians thought “Oh, let’s get some Caribbean influence in right here! Let’s play some funk now. OK, now we’re playing straight-ahead.” Like the music of one of Harper’s influences, Cannonball Adderley, the music flows because Harper is focused on making the music sound good to the listener. But in doing so, he never has to lower his musical standards; instead he allows the musicians he’s picked to interact and create a unique sound.

Other particularly interesting tracks include the Carribean-tinged version of Ray Bryant’s bluesy “Reflection,” the winding exotica of Harper’s composition “Divine Surveillance,” the drum and percussion solo “BandBangBoomBoomBapBap,” and the final number, the African percussion ensemble tour de force “The Prayer.”

While Harper’s sextet grows ever more interesting, he continues to maintain a heavy schedule as a side man to musicians such as Joe Lovano, Ray Bryant, Wycliffe Gordon, and Jimmy Heath. That ensures that Winard Harper will continue to absorb interesting ideas from a variety of musical influences, and he will find ways to utilize these ideas on future recordings, I am certain. For now, get your hands on a copy of Make It Happen, and you’ll be able to say you were in on one of the year’s best releases way back in July.

- Jazzitude - Marshall Bowden  7/06

Besides being a dynamic, inventive drummer, Winard Harper effortlessly juggles an ecumenical array of genres, including African, Caribbean, world music, bebop, hard bop, blues, ballads and virtually any style that fits his artistic vision.

On 15 swinging, sweetly succinct tracks here, the percussionist/composer/band leader incorporates his all-embracing eclecticism and originality into a bright, vibrant package that spills over with delights.

Immediately, Harper ignites a dynamite version of the rarely heard Charlie Parker piece, "Segment." Its power-packed elements feature a brisk contribution from Josh Evans, the phenomenal young trumpeter and former protégé of the late Jackie McLean. On the title track, Harper's expressive mallet work on balafon, and guest trombonist Wycliffe Gordon's evocative didgeridoo musings, generate a charming, jazzy world music ambience.

On "After Hours," a raffish blues, Gordon wails on muted trombone that all but speaks. On an urbane version of "I've Never Been in Love Before," alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, a guest artist; tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark and Evans play fine back-to-back solos.

Harper builds this ebullient album around his sextet, special guests and his percussion choir that cooks up rich rhythms with its varied instruments.

On the improvised, onomatopoetically titled track, "BangBangBoomBoomBapBap," the drummer displays his ingenuity and humor. Mixing swing and spirituality, Harper's crisp, celebratory statements are life-affirming rituals in rhythm that make the soul clap its hands and sing.

- - Owen Mcnally  7/06

Besides Veteran drummer Winard Harper (who has played with Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Betty Carter, Ray Bryant, Abdullah Ibrahim, Pharoah Sanders, Clifford Jordan and others) gives us two albums in one on Make It Happen.

The first is percussion-heavy. The opening tracks, for example, present an approach to ensemble sound that recalls Mosaic-era Jazz Messengers (carefully arranged multiple-horn lines over a busy, insistent rhythm section). The best compositions echo episodes in the Mingus lineage (notably Dave Holland's excellent mid-'80s groups). These elements can be traced back to a common ancestor in Duke Ellington, and you can't have better roots than that.

These musical elements are held together by a genuinely novel mix of Afro-Cuban and unhyphenated African percussion. The percussion draws upon the more familiar Latin rhythms known to jazz audiences since Dizzy Gillespie invited Mario Bauza into his band (witness the flawless Latin jazz marriage in Harper's treatment of Charlie Parker's ”Segment”), but also other West African elements which are distinct from the more familiar Yoruba heritage: most notably the invigorating Senegalese talking drum passages on ”Children of the World.” Three nearly all-percussion numbers are a special treat, especially the title track, from Wycliffe Gordon’s didgeridoo prelude to its organ-drenched finale over a Brazilianesque rhythm.

The other album is a relatively crammed set of decidedly mainstream allegro ma non troppo jazz; more than a few numbers have to be faded out long before they've worn out their welcome to make room for the others. The locus of inspiration for this second part fluctuates between the '50s (“I’ve Never Been in Love Before”) and '60s (“Chronic Mistakes,” the bass/alto duet “Tamisha”), and the added percussion is either inaudible or unobtrusive (and always appreciated, when you can hear it). It manifests the same great Duke-ish approach to group sound.

Harper assembles a spirited ensemble, augmented on the best tracks by an idiosyncratic band of supplementary percussionists, who play with a palpable joy and solidarity. The percussionists, beginning with Harper, lead the pack; trumpeter Josh Evans’ brassy (as opposed to airy) tone recalls Lester Bowie (and ultimately, Rex Stewart) and deserves special mention, but then so too do guests Antonio Hart (alto sax) and Lawrence Clark (tenor sax).

I could listen to the numbers on the percussion-heavy part again and again. As for the cuts on the “second” album, they offer fewer reasons to return for more (with the exception of “Divine Surveillance,” which has a certain gravitas). If the balance between the two had been struck more decisively in favor of the first, this would be a stronger overall release, and there is no doubt in my mind that these players could have sustained the passion of the percussion-based group over nearly eighty minutes.

As it is, the unflagging excellence of the compositions, arrangements and soloing (that's just about everything on a jazz record, isn't it?), added to the evident camaraderie of the players throughout, make for a strong and joyful entry under the “soulful/mainstream” heading.

- - Jeff Dayton-Johnson  8/06

Technical jargon’s sometimes necessary, so with apologies:


This is something like a party at which the classy musicians present can’t forget—nobody can—that they are very classy musicians. The penultimate track might remind some people that drummer/leader Harper once worked not only with his brother but with Ray Bryant.

T.W. Sample does a nice take on “After Hours”, conjured once by Avery Parrish from across the tracks Alabama barrelhouse piano and recorded as one of his features with the Erskine Hawkins big band he dignified. The “After Hours” here seems to have been modelled on Bryant’s duly celebrated recording of the number with Sonnies Stitt and Rollins, and Dizzy Gillespie. The piano part builds to a climax, then there’s the band part, devised by Parrish. Like DG’s version, this one then has a succession of blues solos. Yep, that’s Wycliffe Gordon with the plungered trombone!

DG would have appreciated the closing track, “The Prayer”, a percussion number on which Harper plays balafon, and Abou Mboup sings as well as playing “talking drums”. It seems to belong to the African continent, and does much of what DG wanted when he imported Cubans of rhythmic genius.

Actually, after putting this CD in the player I wondered whether I’d maybe pulled the recent Ray Barretto CD from the carrying case, The first track is, however, the forgotten Charlie Parker tune “Segment”, with Alioune Faye, and Keith and Jeremy Jones doing the energetic rattle and clatter. I won’t pretend to have followed Mr. Harper’s career in detail, but the notes list some people as regulars in his band and the personnel details list some of them on only two or three tracks. Presumably on this date, beside guests Gordon and Hart, he has a number of people who play in his quintet at different times, swapping chairs or adding other chairs and sitting in. A party, I told you! Stacy Dillard plays tenor on the opener, and comes into a later track, and likewise Sean Higgins on piano. Otherwise it’s Lawrence Clark and T.J. Sample on these instruments.

At one point during the percussion orgy at the opening of Ruban Brown’s “Children of the World” I suspected I was going to hear Miles Davis’ “All Blues” for the umpteenth time, !t turned out to be only the harmony of a single phrase. Hear the percussion section again, for quite a workout following Lawrence Clark’s intense tenor and the smoky—if not even smoking -- trumpet of Josh Evans.

Either some of the percussionists have dropped out, or they are outdoing the hornmen, and Sample, in quiet playing on “Morning Glow”. That one has a nice wake-up or sun-breaks-through moment after lyrical ensemble work on the theme, and sparkling piano. The music develops some bottom for the tenorist’s brief statement, the flugelhorn is concise, and it’s not just a case of each man getting his turn; these two regulars take, or shape things as a preliminary to Antonio Hart’s sustained alto solo. He’s a very welcome guest, but there are a few hackneyed licks he might have avoided. I really like the way the final circling ensemble figure in the horns never delivers the repeated figure mechanically. There’s shape and phrasing as it circles under Harper’s torrents of drumming.

Is “Make it Happen” Gordon’s debut on didgeridoo? There’s some real fun with happy clattering, and the sleeve note tells me that “At one point Winard’s descending balafon roll sounds for all the world like a Chinese melody from the 17th century Manchu Qing dynasty”. It’s a more scholarly reference than I could manage. The notes are good and while hardly unenthusiastic they do draw attention to interesting things in the music. This is refreshing in comparison with the soapsuds on other liners. Sample uses synthesizer to simulate funky organ and Gordon does some rasps and cod warbles as they, well, party the ending.

And suddenly there’s Hart with the very nice bass of Ameen Saleem on the beautiful ballad “Tamisha”, composed by the same Mr. Saleem. Harper’s use of brushes is very sensitive, and the bass emerges more clearly as Hart’s solo progresses, with an impression of increasing in clarity and refreshedness the listener might expect to share. This isn’t the least interesting thing Hart has done at his best, and hear the other two guys. On Gordon’s “Get it! Get it!”, Clark’s tenor races away; on Ray Bryant’s “Reflection”, the duly meditational ensemble conclusion has a beautiful terminal strike on Harper’s cymbal.

The party element seems to extend further. It seems every guy who could bring along something of his own did so. Clark brought his dreamy “Lourana”, which allowed scope for him and Evans to produce a flowing, sublime ensemble. Evans brought along a tune called “Chronic Mistakes”, giving Clark the opportunity to do some exciting trilling, and eventually each of them the chance to be gruff in his own way. To take this review out with the party analogy, each of the two Joneses on the guest list, Kevin and Jeremy, has brought along percussion implements, including “shaker” and “cowbell”. The name of the host’s feature sounds like it could be a game: “BangBangBoomBoomBapBap”. It’s a remarkably spritely solo improvisation.which might make you wonder how it could possibly wind up without a letdown. But then there’s silence. Without any sense of the end coming, he has just stopped.

- - Robert R. Calder  8/06



One of the more in-demand drummers on the scene, Winard Harper has added his bebop chops and African rhythms to a plethora of great bands, not the least of which was Harper Brothers.  Since the band broke up, the elder brother has kept rolling along with a steady stream of releases as a leader as well as sideman work.  Here he augments his working sextet with another six guests, including old friend Wycliffe Gordon on trombone. The 15 tracks here cover the gamut, ranging from the African-percussion-driven "Make It Happen" to the Ellingon-esque mid tempo bebopper "Not One Chance" to the Latin-leaning "Segment," which has enough energy to keep the Queens power grid going for a week. Those straight ahead stations have a bunch of tracks to choose from too, but what really makes this record click is the tasteful diversity - it makes the 77-minutes go down pretty easy, which is saying a lot.

- JazzWeek - Tad Hendrickson  8/06



There's no question  the Winard Harper Sextet lives up to the title of their latest recording, Make It Happen.  These guys make it happen again and again, with a swinging set of high intensity jazz.  Harper himself contributes several original tunes - and all original drum grooves.  His skills as a drummer are beyond reproach.  Harper also has a clearly defined, if rooted in an improvisatory nature, compositional style.  His band is top notch, providing several original tunes and supportive yet driving augmentation to Harper's deep grooves.  This is a swingin' band without pretensions.  Make It Happen holds - demands your attention, from start to finish. 

The opening tune is a wonderful rendition of Charlie Parker's "Segment".  The classic bebop melody features a very unusual Latin based drum groove from Harper.  This unique pattern alternates with fast swing during the head.  The burning swing takes over for the solos - trumpet, sax, percussion and piano.  This tune is a perfect opener - it hits you hard with the big punch it packs.  "Children of the World" begins with a percussion intro.  This eventually leads to a 6/8 Latin feel for the melody.  Harper solos over a bass line, after his sidemen have had their turn.  His soloing is mature and compelling.  More than just chops, Harper shows evidence of serious musicality and phrasing.  The next tune, "Morning Glow" begins with piano and light percussion.  The tune eventually unfolds as a ballad, with a horn melody and a gentle backbeat from the leader. 

The first Harper original - the title track - follows.  This track features Wycliffe Gordon on didgeridoo.  This tune is eclectic and influenced by, among other things, world music.  Bassist Ameen Saleem contributes the following tune, "Tamisha", a ballad featuring a sultry saxophone melody.  Harper plays brushes and the balladish tune is performed by the trio of Harper, Saleem and Lawrence Clark.  "I've Never Been in Love Before" features Josh Evans on muted trumpet.  The medium swing tune in swingin' yet laid back.  The leader begins the next tune, "Get It! Get It!" (an original by Wycliffe Gordon), with a drum solo, leading to an up tempo swing feel.  Harper takes an extended solo after the composer and the rest of the band.  The solo again makes great use of dynamics and structure.  The same drum lick that opened the tune kicks the band back in.  Evans is back to the muted trumpet on "Not One Chance", a gentle ballad written by pianist T. W. Sample. 

The hippest jazz drummers are intimately familiar with a Roy Haynes recording by the name of We Three.  Haynes, bassist Paul Chambers and pianist Phineas Newborn Jr. play some wonderful jazz on this under appreciated recording.  It's one of my personal favorites among Haynes' staggering body of work.  Harper is obviously also familiar with the recording; he includes two selection from it.  The first, "Reflection", replaces Roy's Latin groove with a funk one.  This is a wonderful rendition.  "After Hours", also in We Three, is a slow blues number, featuring a fantastic growling trombone solo by Wycliffe Gordon.  Three more Harper originals are included.  "Divine Surveillance" has a Latin vibe to it, with Harper playing mallets.  Evans takes a particularly fine solo on this track.  "BangBangBoomBoomBapBap" is percussion and drums feature.  The closer is "The Prayer", featuring vocals and balafon, as played by Harper.

Make It Happen is a fine modern jazz CD.  Heavy on rhythmic content, the percussive influences on the disc never overshadow the melodic, harmonic or stylistic ones.  The band plays great.  The tunes contributed by each member - including the leader - are fantastic - this band has an excellent rapport.  This one is certainly not just for drummers.  Whatever you've got to do to make it happen, get Make It Happen.

- JazzImprov - Dave Miele  8/06

Jazz records made in one day aren’t particularly unique. But looking at the large cast of players on Make It Happen, one has to be impressed at the amount of planning that went into the session—an effort that, in the hands of lesser mortals, might suck the life out of such an ambitious outing. But drummer Winard Harper’s disc is a lively if not slightly schizophrenic date that mixes up strong African and Afro-Cuban rhythms, mainstream swing, and even a little soul jazz. Sequencing is everything and, surprisingly, what could come off as unfocused is instead infectious, accessible and eminently fun.

A resume that includes work with David “Fathead” Newman, Houston Person and Dexter Gordon gives Harper all the cred he needs in the bop and soul departments. His own discs, including Come Into the Light (Savant, 2004), have demonstrated an increasingly broad set of interests. Harper and percussionists Kevin and Jeremy Jones kick off Charlie Parker’s “Segment” here, setting the excitement quotient high on a track that swings its ass off. Harper adds a fourth percussionist, Abdou Mboup, on the more groove-centric “Children of the World,” which opens up for a powerful tenor solo by Lawrence Clark.

“Morning Glow” is more relaxed, featuring concise but beautifully constructed solos from Clark, trumpeter Josh Evans and altoist Antonio Hart. The title track covers a lot of ground, beginning with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon’s didgeridoo, leading into a delicate tribal percussion section featuring Harper on balafon, then settling into a soul jazz groove with Gordon back for a trombone solo that ranges from supple to growling. Harper’s ability to bring together so many seemingly disparate styles without feeling cluttered or incongruous is remarkable.

Elsewhere the lines are more clearly defined. Bassist Aimeen Saleem’s “Tamisha” is a relaxed feature for Hart, while the standard “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” is a lithely swinging track that spotlights Evans’ behind-the-beat phrasing. Gordon’s “Get It! Get It!” is an uptempo burner with defined by vivid solos from Gordon, Harper, Evans and Clark. Clark is a real discovery, and a player well worth watching.

The rest of the disc continues to mix and match. Harper’s mallet-driven “Divine Surveillance,” the juke joint blues of “After Hours” and the closing “The Prayer”—another visceral percussion track featuring Harper on balafon and Mboup’s vocals—are clear highlights.

With artificial borders being dissolved in music all the time, it’s good news that albums like Make It Happen need no longer suffer from criticisms of being too eclectic. Instead, it’s just another example of how the world is getting smaller, and in the best possible way.

- - John Kelman  9/06

JazzWinard Harper is a talented drummer who has come up the ranks playing with such notable artists as Betty Carter and Dr. Billy Taylor and for several years co-led a hard driving group with his trumpet-plating brother Philip. He was in town on July 22 for his second date as a leader at the Jazz factory. Besides playing trap drums, Harper also occasionally performed on the balafon, an African instrument somewhat like a marimba. He was joined by Ameen Saleem (bass), Josh Evans (trumpet), Alioune Faye (sabar, jamba and djembe), Stacy Dillard (sax) and Sean Higgins (piano). Much of the material was from Make It Happen (Piadrum 0602), an excellent recording. As I came in , the band was performing Charlie Parker's "Segment," the leadoff track to the album. It had a classic "Jazz Messengers" hard bop feel. A ballad from the CD, "I've Never Been in Love Before," was next, which allowed Harper to demonstrate his dexterity with both brushes and sticks. A sax-bass-drums rendition of Saleem's "Tamisha," also from the CD, was next, followed by Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely." Following good solos by Evans (who quoted "Mack the Knife") and Dillard, Higgins turned his solo from bop to stride, with percussion accompaniment by all. Higgins told me afterwards that the stride break was not planned, it just happened! The set closed with the Ellington blues, "Things Ain't What They used To Be." A highlight of the second set was a 90 MPH rendition of Nat Adderley's "Work Song," which featured drums and tuned percussion - shades of the Rhythm Devils. A Harper original, "Faith," featured a bass pattern reminiscent of some of Alice Coltrane's and McCoy Tyner's modal pieces. A medley of "After Hours" and "Centerpiece" could have been subtitled "music to take off your clothes to," with the sinuous bluesy rhythms and solos. In a brief post-concert conversation, Harper referred to Cannonball Adderley as a source of inspiration. I found parallels to Art Blakey; not so much in Harper's drumming style, but in his ebullience and love of the music, as well as his penchant for mixing bop and African rhythms and instruments. More information about his recording is available at; and Harper also has his own website,

- -  Martin Z. Kasdan Jr. 9/06

Feeling lethargic? Winard Harper’s latest release is a sure cure. His drum along with the brilliant percussion of Alioune Faye, Kevin Jones and Jeremy Jones explode from jump-start as a Latin/Caribbean excursion on Charlie Parker’s “Segment.” The band might be dubbed a sextet on the cover but that’s hardly a true count—this group is loaded. Harper, who burst on the jazz scene teamed with his brother trumpeter Philip Harper (anyone remember when he blew with Kermit Ruffins at Little People’s Place?), has enjoyed a brilliant career as sideman and leader and pulls together all of his experience and influences for this multi-faceted project. The drummer brings in the cream such as trombonist Wycliffe Gordon with whom he first shared a bandstand in vocalist Betty Carter’s ensemble. With Harper on balafon, Gordon puts down his ‘bone to pick up the didgeridoo for an unusual intro to the drummer’s original title cut. The combination brings an Asian tinge to the opening but in a surprisingly twist the direction gets funky. A quiet moment follows with tenor man Antonio Hart at the head blowing soulfully in a trio setting with bassist Ameen Saleem and Harper who displays his finesse with a ballad. Faves include Gordon’s fast-flying “Get It! Here, Winard lets loose between super tight ensemble work from the horns. A splash of his cymbals sets the mood for another tune from Winard’s pen on the freewheeling “Divine Surveillance.” Trumpeter Josh Evans along with Clark burn. Can’t say enough about all these strong players – check pianist Sean Higgins swinging on top of the tap dance of Harper’s drums. Nice. New material, standard tunes, world music and straight-up jazz in the hands of masters Make It Happen.

- - Geraldine Wyckoff  9/06


LA Jazz Scene

The Harper Brothers made quite an impression on L.A. audiences in the late '80s and early '90s with their powerful, straight-ahead approach.  KLON featured their quintet regularly back then, through two highly acclaimed albums.  Drummer Winard went on to form his own quintet and sextet, visit the Southland regularly, and record seven albums that have continued to gather praise. 

His sextet includes trumpeter Josh Evans, tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark, pianist T.W. Sample, bassist Ameen Saleem and percussionist Alioune Faye.  Guests include trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, alto saxophonist Antonio Hart and several others.  The program for this latest project features several familiar pieces and a lot of new material.  Harper guides his ensemble through blazing fast romps as well as slow, meaningful  ballads.  Gordon, Hart, Evans and Clark contribute exciting solo work, while Harper shines with enthusiasm.  As a drummer's album, the session achieves a remarkable balance.  We get the best of both worlds: lovely melodic lines that mean something special combined with varied rhythmic elements that kindle a fire throughout.  The session's high point comes on "After Hours," where the sextet's mood turns blue and their feelings are released through soulful means.  Here, the cooking gets going while everybody "makes it happen" naturally. 

- LA Jazz Scene - Jim Santella 9/06


Modern Drummer

Harper's flirted with supplemental African percussion before, but this time around it shares center stage.  On  Winard's seventh disc as leader, his band's hard-bop roots are peppered with Afro-Caribbean, blues, and funk elements, and the drummer's robust, hard-swinging kit work is bolstered by the rich percussion layer of Alioune Faye, Abdou Mboup, Kevin Jones, and Jeremy Jones.  A burning opener, "Segment," shows an especially winning intersection of bop and Afro-Caribbean.  It's clear the polished band is having a blast thanks to Harper's galvanizing drive.  And yes, a talking drum can be right at home in straight-ahead swing.

- Modern Drummer - Jeff Potter  9/06 (Vol.30, #11)



Drummer, composer and bandleader Winard Harper brings his relentless exuberance to Make It Happen, where the seemingly disparate Afro-Caribbean and bebop styles stand shoulder to shoulder.  The percussion-driven nature of the recording is evident from the top, with an energetic arrangement of Charlie Parker's "Segment," with Alione Faye's percussion binding the fabric of the two genres seamlessly, while Stacy Dillard and Josh Evan, on tenor and trumpet, handle the bebop chores.  Harper's balafon play and Abdou Mboup's talking drum give "Children of the World" an African lilt and Antonio Hart lends his supple alto to the lush "Morning Glow." 

The title tune is daring aural storm with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon leading off on didgeridoo.  When Gordon soloed on this instrument during Harper's recent run at Jazz Standard, the distinct vocal elements he applied sounded like Slam Stewart doing Tibetan monk chants.  Gordon's playing leads to more African percussive elements that bust out into a full-blown Fred Wesley and the JBs brand of funk, with Gordon working out on the trombone. 

The band shows a fine fluency and facility with playing straight ahead on standards like "I've Never Been In Love Before" and the rapid-fire "Get It! Get It!", which has great trumpet and trombone work by Evans and Gordon.  The colorful and on-point bop styling of "Not One Chance" and 'Reflection" feature fine back to back piano work by T.W. Sample and Sean Higgins.  And the joyous, onomatopoetically titled "BangBangBoomBoomBapBap" is a percussive gem.  The disc closes with two types of worship.  The gospel-themed 'After Hours" is a revival meeting held in a juke joint, with Gordon's testimony on the trombone affirming the faith of the righteous and moving the sinners to confession.  "The Prayer" features ardent vocalizing by Mboup over a hypnotic African beat that closes the ceremonies perfectly.   

- AllAboutJazz-NY - Terrell Holmes  10/06


The Star Ledger

Jersey City drum whiz Harper delivers an impressive range of jazz moods with all manner of appealing percussive babble. His ace team includes saxophonists Lawrence Clark, Antonio Hart and Stacy Dillard, trumpeter Josh Evans, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, pianists T.W. Sample and Sean Higgins, bassist Ameen Saleem and four percussionists: Alioune Faye, Abdou Mboup, Kevin Jones, and Jeremy Jones. The latter groups play anything from the African djembe drum to congas and tambourines. The theme of the modestly-paced "Children of the World," a modern number recalling both "All Blues" and "So What," is underpinned by alluring percussion discussion. Harper's hearty beat sets up the solos. Charlie Parker's "Segment" finds fierce, bop-minded solos from Dillard, Evans and Higgins leading to Faye's crackling hand drum exposition. Onaje Allen Gumbs' "Morning Glow" sounds just like its title, and boasts a tuneful effort from Sample, among others. Gordon's "Get It! Get It!" charges into action, displaying Clark's John Coltrane-inspired tenor lines, the composer's rhythmically agile, hard-driving thoughts and the leader's snap in a tidy solo. Clark's "Lourana" is a tender modern item. Good stuff all around.

- The Star Ledger - Zan Stewart  10/06



Down Beat

Drummer Winard Harper plays the kind of soulful music that puts the lie to the notion that uncompromising jazz can't feed both the head and the heart.  On Make It Happen, Harper augments his high-energy hard-bop with an exploration of global rhythms and textures.  He starts with an Afro-Cuban take on Charlie Parker's "Segment," a showcase for hard-edged turns by tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard and trumpeter Josh Evans, and an open section for percussionist Alioune Faye.  "I've Never Been In Love Before," though, is given a straightforward reading, highlighted by Antonio Hart's soulful alto saxophone. 

The title track bumps around a few continents, buzzing open with Wycliffe Gordon's didgeridoo, followed by Harper's balafon, the percussion ensemble simmering until T.W. Sample's keyboards and the horn ensemble burst through to take the tune in a funkier direction.  Abdou Mboup's talking drums and vocals top the hypnotic, all-percussion "The Prayer."  The church seeps into the saloon on "After Hour," a stomping blues number primed by Sample's rolling piano and brought home by Gordon's growling plunger-muted trombone.  Make It Happen is a musical variety show, but who's complaining?

- Down Beat - Philip Booth  11/06


Cadence Magazine

Diversified, creative, straight-ahead and world music are all wrapped up in this tight production, one that defies classification.  What kind of Jazz is this that the Winard Harper Sextet is recording?  It's fresh, lively, and serious all in the same exalted breath.  Just when I think I've pinpointed a direction, the compass needle flies out of control and rests at a sixty-five degree angle from the point of prudence.  Believe me, there is nothing safe or cautious about this CD.  Harper pushes at the limits, like cooking rice and beans in a too small pot.  It's bound to boil over.  Opening the CD with a Charlie Parker tune called 'Segment," the drums carry me to an African nation far from the comfort of my living room.  The talking drums drive at the listener and shout their message with repetitive strokes of palm on skins.  Harper duets with percussionist Alione Faye, while the piano lays down a Latin American salsa line.  We leave Africa and head for South America or perhaps event eh Caribbean. 

Whoever recorded and mastered this session is to be saluted.  The sound on the drums and the piano are crystal clear and engaging.  Their tones are absolutely natural, vibrant and live!  Then the horns arrive, racing like gazelles running from the hunter's bullet.  All of this happening on a single song shows how Harper can intoxicate the listener's imagination.  On the second cut, "Children of the World," Harper continues his love of percussive experimentation.  He uses the Balafon.  This instrument is an open framework made of wood, metal, or bamboo and is covered by 12 to 21 hardwood (rosewood or similar) keys, hardened by fire and graduated in order of size.  Gourd resonators are placed below the keys and have a second lateral hole covered by a membrane (e.g., spider cocoon fibers) to obtain a typical buzzing sound.  This instrument is similar to Marimba or an Xylophone. 

There are extraordinary musical moments captured on Harper's CD.  It's like a piñata, stuffed with pleasant surprises, like the guest appearance Wycliffe Gordon on trombone.  The CD explores a host of unusual and percussive instruments that add pizzazz to an already Jazzy party.  For example, on the title cut "Make It Happen," you can clearly hear the Balafon, but you will also hear the growl of a didgeridoo.  Further on , enjoy Jeremy Jones, who brings highlights to this session with his tambourine and cowbell licks, but also with the Dun dun.  Kevin Jones plays the Jamba, along with other more traditional and recognizable percussive instruments.  However, every song is not all rhythm and rage.  There are some tender moments when special guest, Antonio Hart makes sweet on "Tamisha." "Lourana" is another beautiful, melodic composition.  Harper was a student and friend of the late Billy Higgins and he credits much of his percussive experimentation to this relationship.  There's a lot of Max Roach fire and flavor in his playing, but basically Harper is his own man; master percussionist, producer, composer and illustrious leader of an ensemble where everyone shines!

- Cadence Magazine - Dee Dee McNeil  11/06

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JazzTimes Magazine

A skilled drummer can create rhythmic structures to excite or calm, to express joy or sorrow, to gently guide a band or leave it behind in a cloud of dust.  Winard Harper is a master of all these aspects, and puts the full range on display on Make It Happen.   At nearly 80 minutes, the disc is a jam-packed celebration of both straight-ahead jazz and its ancient roots. 

Harper employs a rotating cast of 12 musicians, balancing his own compositions with contributions from the band and a few old standbys.  A small platoon of African percussion brings healing warmth to "Children of the World" and "The Prayer," with Harper's gorgeous balafon driving the latter.  Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon makes a big splash on three tracks, including a dazzling didgeridoo break in the boisterously funky title cut.  Antonio Hart's alto saxophone injects a cool, soulful feel, turning the ballad "Tamisha" into a lovely daydream.  And "After Hours" showcases the group's absolute ease with New Orleans-style blues.

Throughout the disc, crisply rendered solos and brief dialogues among the horns highlight the camaraderie of Harper's group, exemplifying the spirit of optimism and unity pervading this fine recording. 

- JazzTimes Magazine - Forrest Dylan Bryant  11/06


Nashville City Paper

Though Make It Happen (Piadrum) is drummer Winard Harper’s seventh release, it doesn’t concentrate on bombastic numbers. Instead it features Harper excelling in complimentary and front roles, backing and heading both a sextet and larger band on both short and more extensive tunes. “Make It Happen” includes some rollicking playing on didgeridoo from Wycliffe Gordon (who’s just as impressive on trombone), while “BangBangBoomBapBap” is a drum/various rhythm instrument workout tune, and “Morning Glow,” “The Prayer” and “Get It! Get It!” offer ample space to tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, trumpeter Josh Evans, pianist Sean Higgins and pianist/synthesizer player T.W. Sample for either aggressive or softer solos and collective sections. The blend of originals, standards and surprising choices (Charlie Parker’s “Segment,” Avery Parrish’s “After Hours”) are the final component that spice and differentiate Make It Happen.

- Nashville City Paper - Ron Wynn  12/06

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.

- - Jim McElroy  2/07