When drummer Winard Harper drives an ensemble, as he does on Faith, he immediately recalls the brilliance of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. The synergy created by Harper's flinty rhythmic attacks, rim-shots and fiercely swinging ride-cymbal and the swaggering, bluesy solos from his front-line horns are entirely Buhaina-like. As evidenced by the title track, Faith is steeped in Blakey's musical concepts: the tune intermingles piping-hot bebop intricacies with gospel-tingled grooves and Afrocentric vibes, and it features gleaming solos from pianist Nick Rolfe and bassist Brandon Owens.
In newcomer trumpeter Patrick Rickman, Harper has found his own Lee Morgan. Rickman's growling, round tone and incisive attacks are nicely featured on Bobby Timmons' immortal "Moanin'," which is also graced by pianist and ex-Messenger George Cables. Harper colors the hard-bop rhythmic palette with percussionists Alioune Faye and Abdou Mboup on the festive (and too brief) African stomp "Blessed Eid" and a ripping reading of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," which also features some down-home singing from Carrie Smith. On Harper's original "Ihsan," he switches to balafon for an infectious groove with Mboup, and then moves back on traps to deliver his most powerful solo on the date.
Without being overtly flashy Faith is a solid record, which would've made Blakey proud.