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November 2004

Winard Harper
Come Into the Light
Savant

There's certainly been no shortage of artistic statements about the September 11 attacks and their aftermath, and there'll no doubt be more. Few of those are as concise or as engaging as the one made by master drummer Winard Harper and his sextet on Come Into the Light.

"911" is but one of the gems on this uncompromisingly excellent live recording (the first at Cecil Brooks III's New Jersey club). Saxophonist Brian Horton sets the tone on his brief introduction, which Harper follows up even more ominously, paving the way for trumpeter Patrick Rickman to launch a blistering attack of his own. Thereafter, the music represents the bedlam and uncertainty that followed the historic day's cataclysm, with both Horton and pianist Jeb Patton weaving tortured cries into Harper's authoritative trap breaks.

While Harper is unquestionably the leader, the CD's feel is truly collaborative throughout, from compositional credits-"911" is Rickman's, Horton submits the funky "Specimen A" and Patton provides the Tommy Flanagan tribute "T.F."-to the seamless interplay on the Latin-bop workout "Float Like a Butterfly" and the Tadd Dameron staple "If You Could See Me Now." Another classic, "Corner Pocket," gets a similar treatment, with Horton and Patton again trading quicksilver expressions, all behind another fluid opening solo by Rickman.

The rest of the rhythm section-bassist Ameen Saleem and percussionist Alioune Faye-help Harper lay down a solid yet swaggering swing foundation, and the front line keeps their solos mostly lean and mean.

This is the unmistakable sound of a top-flight band that has come into its own and is capable of going just about anywhere musically.

Originally published in November 2004
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