Winard Harper & Jeli Posse
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Winard Harper & Jeli Posse

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band Jazz World


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"A Drummer of Huge Presence"

Winard Harper: a drummer of huge presence
February 07, 2009|By Howard Reich, TRIBUNE CRITIC

Not all young jazz lions of the 1980s and '90s disappeared into obscurity. Some have blossomed into significant figures, few more compelling than drummer Winard Harper.

Though he made his name with the Harper Brothers band (which he led with sibling Philip Harper on trumpet), Winard Harper in recent years has made a deeper contribution in his own right. A drummer of huge presence and ample virtuosity, he now finds himself mentor to a new generation of young artists, such as the three advanced students who rounded out his sextet Thursday night at the Jazz Showcase.
- Chicago Tribune

"Harmonious Sounds"

I do know that he himself makes some harmonious sounds with his band on this exciting, post-bop, collection of freshly written and older material. - Jazz Weekly

"Standard Bearer"

Winard Harper is one of his generation's greatest standards bearers. Harper's goal seems simple - propel the ensemble with a dynamic sense of swing. - Downbeat Magazine

"Truth Teller"

Says Philip Booth of Jazztimes, "The drummer gives the saxophonists some on Coexist, another round of sophisticated truth telling from Winard Harper that demonstrates high standards of musical excellence when it comes to expansive compositions, creative arrangements and choice of able bandmates." - Jazz Times

"Heartfelt Music"

"...It was the evening's third piece, Here's to Life, that most clearly expressed the band's spirit. This bittersweet, traditional Jazz tune exemplifies the band's overtly positive, life-affirming, yet deeply felt musical commitment." - All About Jazz


"The night culminated, like an evening of fireworks, with a sustained display of percussive pyrotechnics by Harper so rapid fire, so mind bogglingly dexterous, and so expressively diverse, as to be truly awe inspiring." - All That Jazz

"All as One"

"Each [player] possesses their own voice, and each, under the expert guidance of Harper, are capable of synthesizing their disparate styles and personalities into a whole, both unique and greater than the sum of its parts." - All That Jazz

"Long Time Coming"

"Not since Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers has there been as exciting a group in Jazz as The Winard Harper Sextet." - Modern Drummer

"Unmistakable Sound"

"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." - Jazz Times


"Along with their emphasis on hard-bop entertainment values, on good times, flash and swing, they have solid music to offer." - Chicago Sun Times

"Sparks Listeners"

"His engaging performance and positive spirit sparks listeners." - The Star Ledger


Though Make It Happen (Piadrum) is drummer Winard Harper’s seventh release, it doesn’t concentrate on bombastic numbers. Instead it features Harper excelling in complementary and front roles, backing and heading both a sextet and larger band on both short and more extensive tunes. “Make It Happen” includes some rollicking playing on didgeridoo from Wycliffe Gordon (who’s just as impressive on trombone), while “BangBangBoomBapBap” is a drum/various rhythm instrument workout tune, and “Morning Glow,” “The Prayer” and “Get It! Get It!” offer ample space to tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, trumpeter Josh Evans, pianist Sean Higgins and pianist/synthesizer player T.W. Sample for either aggressive or softer solos and collective sections. The blend of originals, standards and surprising choices (Charlie Parker’s “Segment,” Avery Parrish’s “After Hours”) are the final component that spice and differentiate Make It Happen.

Full article: - Nashville City Paper

"Drummer Winard Harper Sets Pace"

"Of course, drummers can lead bands, though it doesn't happen very often; and they can lead in all kinds of ways. Winard Harper inspired with skill and uplifted with joy on Friday at A Place for Jazz, entertaining and making music in the rambunctious style of Elvin Jones, rather than the perfectionist, intimidating martinet way of Buddy Rich." - Schenectady Daily Gazette

"Defies Classification"

Cadence Magazine
Diversified, creative, straight-ahead and world music are all wrapped up in this tight production, one that defies classification. What kind of Jazz is this that the Winard Harper Sextet is recording? It's fresh, lively, and serious all in the same exalted breath. Just when I think I've pinpointed a direction, the compass needle flies out of control and rests at a sixty-five degree angle from the point of prudence. Believe me, there is nothing safe or cautious about this CD. Harper pushes at the limits, like cooking rice and beans in a too small pot. It's bound to boil over. Opening the CD with a Charlie Parker tune called 'Segment," the drums carry me to an African nation far from the comfort of my living room. The talking drums drive at the listener and shout their message with repetitive strokes of palm on skins. Harper duets with percussionist Alione Faye, while the piano lays down a Latin American salsa line. We leave Africa and head for South America or perhaps even the Caribbean.

Whoever recorded and mastered this session is to be saluted. The sound on the drums and the piano are crystal clear and engaging. Their tones are absolutely natural, vibrant and live! Then the horns arrive, racing like gazelles running from the hunter's bullet. All of this happening on a single song shows how Harper can intoxicate the listener's imagination. On the second cut, "Children of the World," Harper continues his love of percussive experimentation. He uses the Balafon. This instrument is an open framework made of wood, metal, or bamboo and is covered by 12 to 21 hardwood (rosewood or similar) keys, hardened by fire and graduated in order of size. Gourd resonators are placed below the keys and have a second lateral hole covered by a membrane (e.g., spider cocoon fibers) to obtain a typical buzzing sound. This instrument is similar to Marimba or an Xylophone.

There are extraordinary musical moments captured on Harper's CD. It's like a piñata, stuffed with pleasant surprises, like the guest appearance Wycliffe Gordon on trombone. The CD explores a host of unusual and percussive instruments that add pizzazz to an already Jazzy party. For example, on the title cut "Make It Happen," you can clearly hear the Balafon, but you will also hear the growl of a didgeridoo. Further on , enjoy Jeremy Jones, who brings highlights to this session with his tambourine and cowbell licks, but also with the Dun dun. Kevin Jones plays the Jamba, along with other more traditional and recognizable percussive instruments. However, every song is not all rhythm and rage. There are some tender moments when special guest, Antonio Hart makes sweet on "Tamisha." "Lourana" is another beautiful, melodic composition. Harper was a student and friend of the late Billy Higgins and he credits much of his percussive experimentation to this relationship. There's a lot of Max Roach fire and flavor in his playing, but basically Harper is his own man; master percussionist, producer, composer and illustrious leader of an ensemble where everyone shines! - Cadence Magazine


CoExist - Jazz Legacy Productions, 2012
Make it Happen - Piadrum Records, 2006
Come into the Light - Savant, 2004
A Time for the Soul - Savant, 2003
Faith - Savant, 2000
Winard - Savant, 1999
Trap Dancer - Savant, 1998
Be Yourself - Epicure, 1994



Downbeat magazine says, "Winard Harper is one of his generation's greatest standards bearers. Harper's goal seems plain and simple - propel the ensemble with a dynamic sense of swing."

Harper summarizes Jeli Posse's swing savvy, world spiced flavor when he shares, Everything builds on everything as the values and traditions are passed down. From the African roots to today, many ingredients have been thrown into the pot. The band continues to expand on the the ground laid by the medicine men and messengers before us."

Harper's lifelong jazz apprenticeship has taken him around the world. It includes playing and recording with many greats, including Betty Carter, Johnny Griffin, Dr. Billy Taylor and Dexter Gordon. Influences include Jackie McClean, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Cannonball Adderley, and Billy Higgins. "Higgins had a big impact on me as a person and musician. He played with such joy. He saw jazz as spiritual and social work and walked the talk."

Those early years also instilled a strong sense of what it means to be a band. "Building something together... sharing vision, cohesion, sacrifices and growth over time... that makes a band.", says Harper.

The Baltimore native, born in 1962, got an early start with the help of his father and older brother, Danny. By age five, he was making guest appearances with Danny's band. He recalls an epiphany while listening to recordings. "I was fascinated hearing Max do the things he did with percussion of all types," he recalls. I knew jazz was what I wanted to play.

Winard co-founded the internationally acclaimed Harper Brothers with trumpeter sibling, Philip in the 80's. Their solo paths diverged in 1993. In 1994, Winard recorded Be Yourself on the Epicure label and has continued to perform and record world-wide. 30 plus years of band leadership reflect an ever evolving mission to enlighten, heal and uplift.

Philip Booth says of his latest release, "The drummer gives the saxophonists some on Coexist, another round of sophisticated truth telling from Winard Harper that demonstrates high standards of musical excellence when it comes to expansive compositions, creative arrangements and choice of able bandmates"