LIVE: The Billy Harper Quintet @ The Falcon, 6/19/16
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
Jazz veterans Billy Harper and Eddie Henderson – on tenor sax and trumpet/flugelhorn, respectively – are presently best known as members of the multi-horn post-bop band the Cookers. Last month at The Falcon in Marlboro, they played a pair of exquisite sets of exhilarating music with three other virtuoso musicians – underrated pianist Francesca Tanksley, drummer Aaron Scott and bassist Hwansu Kang. They were also joined by Harper’s student Sunhyun Yoo, who stepped in as a special guest on alto sax.
All of the music that was played – whether original compositions or standards – was creatively stretched, twisted and reconfigured to explore the myriad aspects of the melodies and chords. “My Funny Valentine” was one of the more recognizable tunes, as the band stretched out the melody over many measures.
Other tunes were bolstered by musical elements that were not necessarily associated with jazz. “Quest,” for instance, began with a series of bugle-like calls, before evolving into a full-blown post-bop experience.
Aaron Scott’s drums set the foundation, his strong backbeat allowing the band plenty of room to breathe and blow in a free-form attack. He was explosive when the music demanded it, but his playing offered the band the luxury of organically expanding and contracting with both power and finesse.
When Francesca Tanksley soloed, it was like a magnificent bird of prey taking off – launching into flight with strength and power and then effortlessly gliding through the changes. Hwangsu Kang propelled the band with his steady bass playing, anchoring the band (barely) to prevent the music from taking off to the sky. Sunhyun Yoo kept pace with all the veterans in the band and more than made a good account of himself while soloing.
In short, another great evening of listening to jazz at The Falcon…
NOTE: The Falcon is making jazz the featured music for Sunday evenings. Check their website for upcoming events.