Born: August 17, 1961 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Everette Harp - saxophone
As the 90's progressed and smooth jazz artists began incorporating more hip-hop and classic R&B grooves into the music which came to define the genre, Everette Harp found himself ahead of the curve. Raised in church and weaned on gospel and soul music, the Houston born saxman on his first two Blue Note recordings, “Everette Harp” (1992) and “Common Ground” (1994), was already leaning this way, combining dynamic funk edges and urban textures into the mix. His popular 1997 tribute to Marvin Gaye's 1971 watershed album “What's Going On” combined the best of his two worlds, modern day contemporary jazz and the classic soul he grew up with. 1998's “Better Days” further solidified his place among the chart-toppers of smooth jazz.
His release “For the Love,” (2000) featured some of smooth jazz and R&B's most dynamic and acclaimed musicians, and continued his streak. In 2004 he put out “All For You,” where he brought in top guitarist Earl Klugh. His last effort has been the 2006 offering of “In the Moment,” (Shanachie) joined by his mentor and friend, keyboardist and producer legend George Duke, who can also be found on all of Harp's previous cds. He is also joined by some of the best guitarist in music today...Norman Brown, Chuck Loeb, Paul Jackson Jr., Jonathan Butler, and A. Ray The Weeper Fuller, as well as his usual cast of top notch studio musicians.
Most musicians can reach back and find a turning point moment when they realized exactly what their lives would be about. But as with his lifelong, ever powerful faith in God, Everette Harp only remembers that he always played music. He started playing piano at two, sax at four and says, It was just like breathing for me. Born and raised in Houston the youngest of eight children, Harp's most profound early influences were the gospel music he heard at the church where his dad was the minister and the great jazz performers he began listening to in high school Grover Washington, Jr., Hank Crawford and Stanley Turrentine. After graduating from North Texas State as a Music Major, he worked for a brief time as an accountant before playing in a handful of local bands and picking up studio jingle work.
Harp moved to Los Angeles in 1988, and his career as a sideman took off; after a brief tour with Teena Marie, he traveled internationally with Anita Baker (an association that went on and off until 1995), performed with Sheena Easton and Kenny Loggins and began developing his studio chops behind such artists as Patti LaBelle. Harp signed a solo deal with Manhattan/Blue Note in 1992 and recorded his self-titled debut between tours with George Duke and Marcus Miller.
That album's popularity led to further developments which established Harp as one of smooth jazz's greatest ambassadors a date at the Montreaux Jazz Festival; a tour with labelmate Rachelle Ferrell; playing alongside President Clinton, performing Your Mama Don't Dance at the 1993 Inaugural ball (Clinton borrowed one of Harp's saxes for the occasion!); and appearing weekly with The Posse on The Arsenio Hall Show. In the later Nineties, his sax was heard performing the theme song for Entertainment Tonight, as well as the Soul Train theme (Produced by George Duke), which is still being heard over the main titles. He also played the main title theme to Roger Ebert at the Movies. Over the years, Harp has also performed and/or recorded with a wide variety of pop, R&B and jazz superstars Luther Vandross, Dionne Warwick, Jeffrey Osborne, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Al Jarreau, After 7, Phil Perry, Go West, Natalie Cole, Chante Moore, Will Downing, John Tesh, Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Chaka Khan, Stanley Clarke, Michael McDonald and Larry Carlton among others.
While Harp has cut back on his side gigs over the past few years to focus more on his solo career and other musical endeavors, the one superstar association he has continued is with Kenny Loggins. Over the past two years, Harp has opened for Loggins' concerts with his own band, then joined the singer/songwriter as keyboardist, saxophonist and backing vocalist. I love playing for other artists because I can show up, have a good time and not have to worry about anything beyond doing a great performance, Harp says. I've learned so much from working with different artists. Anita Baker taught me all about stage presence and audience rapport, while studying Kenny's amazing musicianship has helped build my own musicality. Also, production Zen-master George Duke taught me musical maturity and an amazing amount about how to produce great records.
Two of Harp's brothers followed in their father's footsteps by becoming Baptist ministers, and the saxman feels that playing music is his way of bringing the love of God to his own audience. I see my music and career as a gift from God, as though I am simply a conduit with a force working through me to entertain people and make them happy, he says. My spiritual side helps me get in touch with my emotional side, and together, they create the feeling that comes from my horns. Before every performance, my band and I pray that God help us fill our audience with the love of music He has given us. My focus is always on God and influencing my listeners in a positive way.