Winard Harper

WINARD HARPER, a drummer, is passionate about jazz. He says that jazz music is powerful. It can do a lot for people. We would see many positive changes in the world if people spent more time listening to it each day. Harper, inspired by the music of legends like Max Roach and Clifford Brown, Jackie McLean and Cannonball Adderley as well as Dr. Billy Taylor, Art Blakey, Billy Higgins and Clifford Brown has been the leader and musical inspiration to a vibrant sextet over the past ten years. They regularly perform all across the United States, from Washington, D.C., to Yoshi’s, a legendary West Coast jazz club. Harper is clearly the driving force behind this extraordinary ensemble. However, Harper has also surrounded himself with talented young guardians of jazz tradition (ameen saleem, Josh Evans and Stacy Dillard), who are just as fun to listen to as they are to watch. Winard was born in Baltimore in 1962 and has a natural talent for drumming. His father encouraged him to learn how to drum when he saw him playing on cans at the age of three or four. Winard began to learn the drums at five years old and made guest appearances in Danny’s nightclub band. Winard was captivated by Max Roach and Clifford Brown’s recordings. This was his turning point. He was then irreversibly inspired by jazz. He recalls that he was fascinated to see Max perform the tricks he used with mallets and all. Harper adds that he transcribed Max solos early on, but he was so fascinating to listen to. He had a huge influence on Art Blakey and Billy Higgins. His passion for playing and joy really had an impact on my life. We became great friends because I saw similarities in ourselves and he. Billy was a big inspiration for a lot of the ideas in my band. Many of the African influences and instruments that I use in my band are a result of Billy’s explorations. Harper is a jazz drummer who has been revered by his predecessors and yet remains innovative. Harper is an accomplished drummer and a master of the balafon (the West African equivalent to the marimba). Winard’s performance is just as entertaining to see as it is to listen to, according to critics. Jeff Kaliss, JazzTimes’ JazzTimes editor, said that Winard is “as tasteful as one could hope for.” Franz Matzner wrote recently in All About Jazz, that the performance culminated in an “evening of fireworks with a sustained display by Harper of percussive and pyrotechnics so rapid fire, such mind bogglingly dexterous and so expressively varied, that it was truly awe-inspiring.” Mike Joyce, Washington Post reviewer, said that “Winard Harper’s beautifully orchestrated solos alone may have forced a corpse smile!” Harper was first a major performer with Dexter Gordon, in 1982. He then joined Johnny Griffin shortly afterwards. Betty Carter was immediately attracted to Harper’s drumming abilities. He spent four years working with Ms. Carter’s band, inevitably honing his jazz-as-entertainment sense of showmanship. Harper says that Betty taught him persistence and consistency. Working with her helped me become a bandleader. I also learned a lot from her about the business. I had enough information to help Betty’s band get the Harper Brothers started when I left. She provided me with the inside information on bookings and clubs. Most of the places where we worked together were also the ones I worked at. While Winard was a sideman for jazz legends Ray Bryant and Abdullah Ibrahim, Clifford Jordan and Pharoah Sands, he also laid down the foundations for The Harper Brothers. His brother Philip and he launched a band that would be a major force on the charts as well as on the international touring circuit. Leonard Feather declared that “Man for man The Harper Brothers Quintet…is the most brilliant new Jazz group of the new decade” in his review of the band performing in Los Angeles in early 1990. The band’s second album Remembrance reached #1 on Billboard’s jazz charts in 1991. Winard Harper, Piadrum’s recording artist, is one of today’s most hardworking drummers. He leads his exciting and hard-swinging sextet as well as continuing to be a highly sought-after sideman. Harper records and tours with other artists like Wycliffe Gordon and Ray Bryant. The new CD Make It Happen, his sixth, showcases his talents as a drummer, composer, and bandleader. The Winard Harper Sextet is now on a new level. The band is gaining more airplay around the world and they frequently appear at festivals, on jazz cruises and in top jazz clubs. The Winard Harper Sextet plays a part in bringing jazz to all audiences. It has been nothing but remarkable. Winard Harper is also remarkable. Visit

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