Born: June 4, 1962 Primary Instrument: Drums
Harper summarizes Jeli Posse's swing savvy, world spiced flavor when he shares, “Everything builds on everything as the values and traditions are passed down. From the African roots to today, many ingredients have been thrown into the pot. The band continues to expand on the the ground laid by the medicine men and messengers before us.
Harper's lifelong jazz apprenticeship has taken him around the world. It includes playing and recording with many greats, including Betty Carter, Johnny Griffin, Dr. Billy Taylor and Dexter Gordon. Influences include Jackie McClean, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Cannonball Adderley, and Billy Higgins. Higgins had a big impact on me as a person and musician. He played with such joy. He saw jazz as spiritual and social work and walked the talk.
Those early years also instilled a strong sense of what it means to be a band. Building something together... sharing vision, cohesion, sacrifices and growth over time... that makes a band., says Harper.
The Baltimore native, born in 1962, got an early start with the help of his father and older brother, Danny. By age five, he was making guest appearances with Danny's band. He recalls an epiphany while listening to recordings. I was fascinated hearing Max do the things he did with percussion of all types, he recalls. “I knew jazz was what I wanted to play.”
Winard co-founded the internationally acclaimed Harper Brothers with trumpeter sibling, Philip in the 80's. Their solo paths diverged in 1993. In 1994, Winard recorded Be Yourself on the Epicure label and has continued to perform and record world-wide. 30 plus years of band leadership reflect an ever evolving mission to enlighten, heal and uplift.
Awards:Official Interational Association of Jazz Educators Award, 2002
“Winard Harper, however, has proven since the late ‘80s to be one of the true great bandleaders who sits behind a drum kit while pushing his ensemble to explore international sounds ranging from African to Caribbean to Afro-Cuban, all wrapped around the core of Hard Bop jazz. ” - Chicago Defender Demetrius Patterson
“Overall, Harper’s methodology translates into a smashing success, brimming with a charismatic sound and scope, largely driven by finesse and sheer firepower.” - Ejazznews Glenn Astarita
...It was the evening's third piece, Here's to Life, that most clearly expressed the band's spirit. This bittersweet, traditional Jazz tune exemplifies the band's overtly positive, life-affirming, yet deeply felt musical commitment. - Frank Matzner, All About Jazz
As tasteful a drummer as one could ask for, - Jeff Kaliss, JazzTimes
“Winard’s wonderfully orchestrated solos might have forced a corpse to grin” - Mike Joyce, Washington Post
“There was Jersey City’s Winard Harper kicking things off with a sizzling run through Charlie Parker’s “Segment” that was hotter than the nearby barbeque pit” - Tony Mottola, Jersey Jazz
“Far from overwhelming the proceedings, Harper was the perfect foil, adding nuance here, energy there, and having a terrific time all the while.” - J Hunter, albanyjazz.com
“A tremendous force on the drums and percussion instruments of all kinds and a successful bandleader,” - Frank Matzner, All About Jazz
Drummer Winard Harper proved up to the task in the Blakey role, prodding and cajoling the hornmen while jouncing around on his perch as though afflicted with St. Vitus's dance. Harper erupted in Blakeylike explosions when called for, but his best moments were quieter as he deftly brushed cymbals and ticked his drum rims, creating mesmerizing canvases of sound. -Sandy Ingham, All About Jazz
Harper is amazing a really classy drummer who makes use of every tool in his chest and his group, an aggregation of six virtuosos, comprises a veritable mini-big band, so nimble are their arrangements. -Richard Houdek, Berkshire Eagle
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Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
Winard has developed and delivered clinics, master classes and workshops for a number of settings ranging from Elementary school to post-graduate.
Having been a professional musician since the age of ten, Winard's musical career spans over thirty years of international touring, performance and recording. Numerous educational credits include regular participation with the Jazz in the Schools and Betty Carter Jazz Ahead programs at the Kennedy Center, where he is on faculty. He has delivered countless educational clinics, master classes and workshops at learning institutions including Sonoma State University, University of North Carolina (Wilmington and Asheville), and Northern Illinois University. His direct and effective approach to education favors demonstration through live performance with question and answer sessions accompanying each. Winard's appeal to students of all ages is balanced between the wisdom of initiation by jazz legends and the freshness of his youthful bands. Harper's discography includes over one hundred professional recordings, seven of which are he and his sextet. His latest CD, Make It Happen, a Jazzweek top ten recording, continues to receive significant air play nationally. A representative sampling of professional performances and workshops conducted that span Mr. Harper’s thirty plus year career, includes the venues and/or events listed below. Betty Carter Jazz Ahead (Kennedy Center)* C.W. Post College* Eastern Carolina University* Farleigh Dickinson University* Florida Memorial University* Georgia State University* International Association of Jazz Education (IAJE)* Litchfield Jazz Camp & Festival* Manhattan School of Music* Northern Illinois University* New School University* Queens College San Diego City College Sonoma State University* Tri-C Jazz Festival & Clinic* University of Cincinnati University of Georgia* University of Massachusetts, University of North Carolina - Asheville* University of North Carolina - Wilmington* University of Pittsburgh* University of Southern California* University of Toledo* William Paterson University* Yale University*