Saxophonist Everette Harp has been a best-selling "smooth" jazz artist for years. But, Harp returns to his roots with a more traditional approach on his latest album, "First Love."
Harp's first album in two years required a little bit of soul searching. During that time, while on tour in Europe and Southeast Asia, he decided to stray from his usual regimen of smooth jazz and focus on the jazz classics he heard growing up.
Harp says, "My mind would hark back to the day when I discovered John Coltrane's 'Soul Trane' and Dave Brubeck's 'Time Out' albums in my parent's record collection." He adds, "While I feel like I'm starting over again as a novice, it's a welcome sacrifice in regaining some of the excitement I felt years ago."
Harp's first loves, even before jazz, were gospel and soul. Born the son of a minister in Houston, Texas, he learned to play saxophone at age four. He turned to jazz in high school, and later earned a music degree from North Texas State University. He went on to become a sought-after studio musician, working alongside a steady stream of pop and R&B greats, before landing a solo recording contract in 1992.
Intent on taking a more traditional direction with his new album, Harp still delivers his trademark blend of R&B, funk and blues. There's even a Latin-style arrangement that features Earth Wind and Fire's Reggie Young on trombone. Fans will recognize veteran keyboardist George Duke, who co-wrote three tunes with Harp and performs acoustic and electric piano.
Harp pays tribute to Memphis soul on Duke's composition "Soul Fries," while toning it down with a sax and piano duet on the George and Ira Gershwin standard, "Our Love Is Here To Stay."
Currently on a 25-city tour of Europe, Harp returns to the U.S. to perform at the City of Lights Jazz Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 24.