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JSngry

Billy Harper 1964

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It's only taken 50 years...but this story reeks to me of revisionist do-goodery in the sense that from all I've heard (and some that I've witnessed) the acceptance of Billy into the "club" not exactly warmly embraced by the school or the program...but no matter, at least it'[s now being openly discussed as a point of pride, pretty much a full 180 from when I was there and a classmate of mine, Charlie Young, became the second African-American member of the band...you can tell very clearly that their was an agenda in this whole era of "jazz education" that was not at all about embracing the music from its primary organic sources...to what extent that was rooted in full-frontal racism and how much in the simple nervousness of a tunnel-visionary business plan is at once besides the point and all of the point, and really, today, when everybody loses, everybody wins, I guess.

Cool pictures of a world that never really was, except for where it was.

Bottom line = Billy Harper, FTW

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[Edit]

Interesting........and nice to see that college-age photo of Billy, one of my favorite musicians.

FYI - I didn't see all the collateral when I first saw the post, so my initial comment might not have been entirely appropriate.

Edited by BFrank

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Hannibal Peterson was a student at NTSU / UNT in a slightly later era, correct?

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Yes, Hannibal was there in the late 1960s. That's where/when the Soulmasters record was made.

R-2627328-1293963787.jpeg.jpg

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Jim, I this the same Charlie Young who teaches at Howard University and is the musical director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra?

Bertrand.

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Sure is!

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http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pks01

Many white Texans did not accede easily to federal mandates or to some of their implications. In 1956, for example, the voters approved a referendum that opposed compulsory attendance in integrated schools and another that prohibited intermarriage. The 1957 legislature passed laws encouraging school districts to resist federally ordered integration, though Governor Price Daniel, Sr., ignored such laws in the late 1950s. During the 1960s, however, legal segregation passed into history. Court decisions, federal investigations such as those conducted by the United States Commission on Civil Rights in the late 1960s, the civil rights movement of that same age, activism by African Americans and Mexican Americans, and a more tolerant white society toppled Jim Crow.

all hail Hoss Allen, Freddie King, Gatemouth Brown, Pee Wee Crayton, Billy Harper

Edited by MomsMobley

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Jim -- an old friend and teacher of mine from the Univ. of Illinois named Morgan Powell (jazz trombonist/contemporary classical composer & improviser) went to school at UNT in the late '50s/early '60s and taught there for a couple of years, before leaving to teach at Berklee and eventually Urbana. He posted on Facebook recently about Billy and that cover photo. He mentioned another fabulous African-American saxophonist named Claude Johnson who was at UNT perhaps as early as 1960. Per Morgan: "Leon Breeden refused to tour with blacks in the 1st band because of possible controversy, so these two brilliant players played in the 2nd band. Apparently in 1964 Leon felt it safe to have them in the 1st band."

Edited by Mark Stryker

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I knew Claude, played with him some over the years. He'd become a wonderfully lucid eccentric of a "hard bop" composer pianist, a master of "chunky-ness", if you know what I mean. Knew that he played some sax, but he never mentioned being at NT except in very general passing...wow...lots of things explained knowing that...

From what I've hear about Billy, it was very much a case of a talent that could not be denied. This cat did everything that was asked as exemplary as it could be done and then pretty much dared them to turn him down. Also think that the band itself was putting out the vibes to Breeden, like, c'mon man, this guy is RIGHT.

Just thinking about all this is creeping me out, in a lot of ways.

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American history is not for the feint of heart.

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What were Billy's earliest debut recordings as sideman?

Those two grey-market (semi-legit?) live dates with the Jazz Messengers are from '68 iirc, but what (if anything) was recorded earlier?

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There are, allegedly, live recordings of Billy with the 1:00.

I say "allegedly" because taking the department up on their open invitation for all students to avail themselves of the opportunity to the totality of the recorded legacy (the totality of which was assured to be total) led to the response that those tapes were "not available".

That was then, though. Who knows about now?

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Any other notable early recordings of Harper? Not just underground, but legit released stuff?

When/how did he hook up with Gil Evans? Or Art Blakey, for that matter. I have a good smattering of what I think is relatively early Harper, but am realizing just how little I know about his emergence on the scene early on.

The AMG suggests his Gil Evans recordings might be his earliest commercial sessions, is that correct?

Or is there anything else around that same time that's not as widely known?

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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Sorry, I never connected with his music. Obviously he knows the instrument but I am left outside that world.

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Dude, he's kinda like Booker Ervin without the distractions for me. Not that there's anything wrong with Booker Ervin with the distractions, hell no, but I hear that tone and I know exactly where I am, if you know what I mean. Train tracks after midnight, that horn sound dopplering, wondering where Next is. Them sounds run through the country and the city alike, and they sound the same in the dark no matter what. I've heard it alone in the woods, alone in a bed, alone in a bar, and alone in a church.

That's just me, but it is me.

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Good 4 u.

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Dude, he's kinda like Booker Ervin without the distractions for me. Not that there's anything wrong with Booker Ervin with the distractions, hell no, but I hear that tone and I know exactly where I am, if you know what I mean. Train tracks after midnight, that horn sound dopplering, wondering where Next is. Them sounds run through the country and the city alike, and they sound the same in the dark no matter what. I've heard it alone in the woods, alone in a bed, alone in a bar, and alone in a church.

That's just me, but it is me.

What distractions?

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The Booker Ervin "distractions". Booker Ervin would not always have an unlimited supply of ideas, you know? But he played through it, willed the music to be more than that. He'd get hung for an idea or be wanting to move more fingers than he had, and just will himself through it.

I love Booker Ervin because of that, that and his sound, that sound. That sound, more than anything else. Billy got that sound too, and that's more than it anything for me. But Billy's fingers don't have the same distractions that Booker's did. In that way, Billy is Booker with a library card, dig (if I may be allowed a sideways Brother Mouzone reference)?

Anybody who has any true love at all for Booker Ervin will get that he could have played the same solo, literally, on any changes and it would have took you out. As it is, he played a lot of the same solos in a lot of the same ways, and it still knocks you out. Power of the will, triumph of the soul.

At the macro, Billy does the same thing, but with a lot more variety of fingerments. Billy's zones don't repeat as often or as readily as did Booker's. But they hit me every bit as hard, because I hear that sound saying that thing (and no, I'm not going to attempt to "explain what that is, because if you feel it, you feel it, and if you don't, you don't...ain't no thesis needing to be wrote about it, nor no witnesses for the prosecution).

and no, that's not a question of "technique", that's just a question of one man Billy carrying on and moving on to where he had to have it, same as Booker did. Them souls still be speaking the same truths.

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The Booker Ervin "distractions". Booker Ervin would not always have an unlimited supply of ideas, you know? But he played through it, willed the music to be more than that. He'd get hung for an idea or be wanting to move more fingers than he had, and just will himself through it.

I love Booker Ervin because of that, that and his sound, that sound. That sound, more than anything else. Billy got that sound too, and that's more than it anything for me. But Billy's fingers don't have the same distractions that Booker's did. In that way, Billy is Booker with a library card, dig (if I may be allowed a sideways Brother Mouzone reference)?

Anybody who has any true love at all for Booker Ervin will get that he could have played the same solo, literally, on any changes and it would have took you out. As it is, he played a lot of the same solos in a lot of the same ways, and it still knocks you out. Power of the will, triumph of the soul.

At the macro, Billy does the same thing, but with a lot more variety of fingerments. Billy's zones don't repeat as often or as readily as did Booker's. But they hit me every bit as hard, because I hear that sound saying that thing (and no, I'm not going to attempt to "explain what that is, because if you feel it, you feel it, and if you don't, you don't...ain't no thesis needing to be wrote about it, nor no witnesses for the prosecution).

and no, that's not a question of "technique", that's just a question of one man Billy carrying on and moving on to where he had to have it, same as Booker did. Them souls still be speaking the same truths.

I see what you mean. OTOH, I would say (with the caveat that I've heard a lot of Ervin over the years and not as much Harper) that while there's a familial relationship between Ervin's sound and Harper's, I find the former's relative graininess, its Dexterish vacuum cleaner-like "whoosh," to be very appealing, while Harper's flatter (if you will), slab-of-slate sound is or amounts to something else -- "a lot more variety of fingerments," yes, but the sum total for me, even with Ervin's more limited supply of ideas, is that Ervin's music is more varied and potentially "open," and Harper's is more narrowly focused. Also, there's something about Harper's undeniable intensity that strikes me as more forced than expressively forceful -- as though, pardon the image, he were trying to expel a hard stool.

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Not being in the least bit qualified to offer any insight into your personal defecatory sensations, I'll leave that one for you to have for yourself.

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Not being in the least bit qualified to offer any insight into your personal defecatory sensations, I'll leave that one for you to have for yourself.

Vulgar perhaps, but nothing particularly personal here. Do drug stores in Texas not stock laxatives? :)

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Yes, and grocery stores sell greens. I'd recommend the latter in every regard.

Just saying, although I have certainly had that experience, not once has it put me in a Billy Harper mood, not even remotely.

Not saying that you're not supposed to feel it like that, just that I'll never be able to understand - or, really, want to understand, why.

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When/how did he hook up with Gil Evans? Or Art Blakey, for that matter. I have a good smattering of what I think is relatively early Harper, but am realizing just how little I know about his emergence on the scene early on.

I interviewed Billy Harper a copule of times. He's great, really takes ideas for a walk. Some factoids from September 2001:

BH: With Blakey, I asked him about sitting in. He said, yeah come down tonight or something, bring your suit. So I did, I played, and I had the gig, right away! (laughs) So that stands out in my mind. It was a right away kind of thing.

TP: Let’s go back to when you were first growing up. You led your first band when you were 14 or so?

BH: A very long time back. Yeah, I had the idea of having my own band, and I guess I got the idea from listening to Blakey so much. I liked the idea of six people, three horns, so I often had three horns in my groups in Houston, sometimes a quintet, but a lot of times I would try for that trombone sound in there, and that idea came from hearing in my head Blakey’s sound. So I was always cued in on Blakey anyway. And when I got here it was so easy because it was already in my head!

TP: At that time, where would you say you were in your playing, vocabulary-wise?

BH: At 14? Nahh. I was very advanced in terms of hearing and ears. But I guess it was understanding and being able to express a real jazz concept that made a big thing down there. But I needed to learn a whole lot more, and I really got interested in really learning more when I finally got to college. But I was already doing so much because I had a great concept and ears, for that area. I was doing a certain amount, but I didn’t realise how much more I had to do of certain things, which had to do, not just with playing certain things, but mastering the horn first, so that I could eventually do whatever I wanted to do. I was pretty far along the way, but not ready for real professionalism in New York. But by the time I got to college, and going through college, that definitely got me ready for New York. College was just like New York for me. I was like at North Texas State University, and I had to really scuffle just to … it was 61-64, and the segregation thing was happening, so it was like a Jackie Robinson thing, you had to really be very good to ever make that no. 1 band, and I was the first black person to ever make it. So I worked very hard, not to make the band, but because there was a lot of competition there. I didn’t know it was going to be just like New York. It made me work harder, and I just got better and I did make the band. But that was not the goal.

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I seem to remember that he hooked with Gil simply by Billy meeting Gil on the street, chatting a little bit, and Gil just saying "give me a call", which Billy did, and that was that.

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