Billy Harper

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For the English footballer, see Billy Harper (footballer).
Billy Harper
Billy Harper photo 2.jpg
Billy Harper performing at the Jazz Standard in 2007.
Background information
Born (1943-01-17) January 17, 1943 (age 71)
Houston, Texas
Instruments Saxophone, flute
Labels Black Saint, Strata-East, SteepleChase, Evidence

Billy Harper (born January 17, 1943 in Houston, Texas) is an American jazz saxophonist, "one of a generation of Coltrane-influenced tenor saxophonists" with a distinctively stern, hard-as-nails sound on his instrument.[1]


In 1965 Harper earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Texas.[2]

Harper has played with some of jazz's greatest drummers; he served with Art Blakey's Messengers for two years (1968–70); he played very briefly with Elvin Jones (1970), he played with the Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra in the 1970s, and was a member of Max Roach's band in the late 1970s.[3] He has also been a frequent member of Randy Weston's ensembles. He performed on Gil Evans' 1973 album Svengali, and contributed two of the most-performed tunes in the band's repertoire: "Priestess" and "Thoroughbred".

Harper's 1973 album Capra Black "remains one of the seminal recordings of jazz's black consciousness movement--a profoundly spiritual effort that channels both the intellectual complexity of the avant garde as well as the emotional potency of gospel".[4] The Italian jazz label Black Saint was launched with Harper's 1975 album Black Saint. His later releases have mostly been on SteepleChase and Evidence.


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Charles Earland

With Gil Evans

With Bobbi Humphrey

With Lee Morgan

With Max Roach

With Woody Shaw

With McCoy Tyner

With Randy Weston