The 80s go down as a decade of jazz reconstructionism: "the neoclassic years." But while the Marsalises and their musical progeny have plugged into an overall jazz aesthetic--the hard-bop style of the 50s and 60s--they also have found quite specific inspiration in individual trailblazers from years past. In the case of the Harper Brothers (this weekend making their Chicago debut), this model lies in the Jazz Messengers of 30 years ago. You can find the mark of Messengers trumpeter Lee Morgan all over young Philip Harper, and more than a touch of Art Blakey himself in older brother Winard, the drummer. But the Harpers don't sound like pale imitations--or even, for that matter, like especially respectful disciples. Instead they sound remarkably new. Credit their real love of craft, and their precocious understanding of the music's roots and purpose: these things make their style a good deal more than skin deep. The Harper Brothers--enlivened by a terrific young pianist, Stephen Scott--prove that even the excitement of reinventing the wheel can be infectious. Tonight and Saturday, the Bulls, 1916 N. Lincoln Park West; 337-3000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Anthony Barboza.