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November 2006

Winard Harper
Make it Happen
Piadrum Records

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 straightahead 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.

Originally published in November 2006
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