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Winard Harper: Make it Happen

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.

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