Picks and Pans Review: Remembrance
Don't let the title fool you. Though the precocious brothers Harper—drummer Winard, 27, and trumpeter Philip, 24—draw their primary inspiration from the hard bop-jazz tradition of the '50s and '60s, the past is merely prologue here for music that is very much of the moment.
The operative word to describe Remembrance is live. For a follow-up to their 1988 album, The Harper Brothers, one of the more impressive jazz debuts in recent years, Winard and Philip left the safety of the studio to record at New York City's fabled Village Vanguard with saxophonist Justin Robinson, pianist Stephen Scott and bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa. The result is a session bursting with brash exuberance.
"Remembrance" and "Hodge Podge" are dedicated to the memory of the Harpers' father, Hodges, who died recently. Instead of being steeped in melancholy, however, both tunes invoke the toe-tapping spirit of joy that the elder Harper passed on to his sons.
Winard, the driving force behind the group, approaches the drums with a buoyant flair reminiscent of a young Tony Williams. Philip's hard-driving trumpet playing echoes the late Lee Morgan, and Robinson's straight-ahead sax lines call to mind Jackie McLean. Surprisingly, pianist Scott, who at 20 is the baby of the bunch, puts the most uniquely personal stamp on the music with his rhythmic and slightly angular style. But the real glory of the Harper Brothers is their tight ensemble playing and collective ability to maintain an insistent groove.
With Remembrance, the Harper Brothers reveal they are serious about jazz tradition. Better yet, they are living proof that jazz can be serious fun. (Verve)