It’s probably true that all saxophonists thrown into the orderly smooth-jazz genre desire to bust out with a trad-jazz project that displays their influences and years of training. Of course, you’ll see this at live shows, which are regularly raucous jams that sound nothing like what develops in sterile studios.
You can’t take the contemporary jazz out of Everette Harp, but he’s exploring the traditional side of funk, blues and jazz on the aptly titled First Love. He couldn’t have selected anyone more up to the production task than George Duke, who knows a thing or two about overlapping genres. Harp’s longtime fan base will immediately hear the change of direction, but an acoustic bass and a few drum brushes do not equal a trad-jazz project (although they sound nice on “Blossom” and John Coltrane’s “Central Park West”). There’s plenty of Harp’s contemporary mien on display along with jazz-chop solos on “Before You Leave” and “Goin’ Through Changes.”
Harp shows his fans that it’s not so scary on the traditional side. As he writes in the liner notes: “And to all my friends who said I should do this type of record … Thanks for your support! Now go buy it!!!!” Good luck with that.