Billy Harper Day

January 17, 1943

A tribute to the passionate tenor-saxophonist

Tenor-saxophonist Billy Harper was born on January 17, 1943 in Houston, Texas.

After graduating from the University of North Texas in 1965, Harper moved to New York and was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers during 1968-70, also working with Gil Evans, Lee Morgan (the trumpeter’s last group), the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and Max Roach.

From the start, Harper had a hard tone and a passionate and adventurous style while being grounded in hard bop and modal music.

He began leading his own record dates in 1973, had a long-time association with Randy Weston, worked steadily in the New York area, and was a member of the McCoy Tyner Big Band in 1993

In more recent times, Harper has been a member of the Cookers, an all-star group featuring some of the top forward-looking jazz musicians of the late 1960s.

Billy Harper and pianist Randy Weston perform “Blues To Senegal” in 2013.

-Scott Yanow


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