Billy Harper with Marshall
|Marshall Vente Octet|
|Tribute to Steely Dan|
| MVP (Marshall Vente Pop)|
Tenor saxophonist Billy Harper is a sound innovator and world class improviser. He has been on the international jazz scene since 1976 with numerous albums to his credit. Pianist /arranger/composer Marshall Vente has lead the Project 9 ensemble, an expanded nonet, since 1979. The collaboration of these two artists inspired Marshall to compose and arrange new works and a new arrangement of Billy's Croquet Ballet that feature Billy with the Project 9 ensemble. This new music is grounded in modern jazz, the blues, Latin influences that reflect Marshall's visit to Spain and the spirit of Gil Evans - who was a mentor and friend to both Billy and Marshall.
Billy Harper, moved to New York in 1966 and began attracting attention from some of jazzdom's giants - Gil Evans, Max Roach, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He performed, recorded and toured Europe, Japan, Africa and throughout the United States from 1966 to 1979 with these groups, as well as his own Billy Harper Quintet. As a recording artist, Billy Harper's album, Black Saint exploded on the international jazz scene in 1976. The reviews all applauded his innovations and prompted the Modern Jazz League of Tokyo to name the album "Jazz Record of the Year - Voice Grand Prix." More information on Billy can be found on his website www.jazzcorner.com/harper
Marshall Vente, an established Chicago based pianist/arranger, studied arranging in the 1980s with Gil Evans and David Matthews in NYC under two Jazz Apprentice grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has appeared with Project 9 at the Chicago Jazz Festival and many other regional festivals, on NPR's Jazz Alive and the American Jazz Festival's nationwide New Year's Eve broadcast. He has recorded nine albums which showcase his compositions and arranging over diverse settings. In addition to four recordings with Project 9, Tropicale records his explosive acoustic/electronic group of the same name exploring the Brasilian and Latin traditions in jazz; Two is comprised of solo piano with Chicago vocalist Joanie Pallatto; two other recordings, with steel drum virtuoso Neville York of St. Maarten, N.A., explores Caribbean influences on Sweet Salt and Jazz Flamboyant; and, on The Long and Short of Jazz, Eldee Young and Vente romp through blues and standards. Vente also hosts a weekly radio show in Chicago, Jazz Tropicale, on WDCB 90.9 FM ("a jazz show with a few palm trees") and produces an annual jazz festival each January in Chicago at the Jazz Showcase.
Project 9, consists of some of the finest instrumentalists in Chicago. The current edition features: Terry Connell and Tom Tallman on trumpets and flugelhorns; Steve Berry on trombone; John Blane on tuba; Rich Corpolongo, Pat Mallinger and Chip Gdalman on saxophones, clarinets and flutes; Scott Mason on bass; Frank Dawson on guitar; Javier Gonzalez on congas and percussion; Isidro Perez on drums; and, pianist Marshall Vente conducts the ensemble.
Project 9 featuring Billy Harper
Billy Harper approaches the tenor saxophone the way his Methodist minister grandfather might have approached the pulpit: he thunders and cajoles with messianic zeal, and as he sings praises he swings like hell. Along with Jan Garbarek and George Adas, the Houstonborn Harper was one of a troika of 70's tenor men who managed to craft unique styles under the influence of John Coltrane. Hordes of players since have honed malleable but ultimately metallic timbres Trane's name, but Harper's sound, built from woods and earth tones, brings him closer that anyone else to the gorgeous complexities of the master's saxophonic voice. Coltrane's technique also provides the foundation fro the careering cascades of Harper's solos, but even as far back as the early 70's, when Harper established himself as the principal tenor soloist in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, he was distinguished by this intense lyricism. His strong artistic and political convictions have for the most part kept him off American record labels: last year's blistering Soul of an Angel (Metropolitan), the 16th album under Harper's name, is only his second for a stateside label since 1973.
Chicagoans have had a number of opportunities to hear him anyway - local trupeter Malachi Thompson has brought Harper to town maybe half a dozen times in recent years to play with his Freebop Band. But we haven't had a chance to hear his tenor erupt our of a full ensemble the way it did in Thad Jones's arrangements in the 70's, at least until now. This year's Marshall Vente Jazz Festival, named for the indefatigable composer, arranger, radio host, and promoter, features Harper in two sets by Vente's Project 9, performing new music commissioned in anticipation of the saxist's participation. With the addition of tuba and an extra percussionist, the lineup is 12 strong for these shows-still not as big as the Jones-Lweis Orchestra, but under Vente's direction, it should serve as a more than adequate launching pad. Saturday, 9PM (January 20, 2001), and Sunday, 3PM (January 21, 2001), Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 630-942-4200 or 312-670-2473
Reader, Friday, January 19, 2001 - Volume 30, Number 17
You may contact Marshall Vente
by phone at: (630) 968-3339