One of my favorite drummers over the last 20 years has been Baltimore’s own Winard Harper! He’s always reminded me of the timeless Art Blakey with his style of play. Well, Winard is back for his latest release, COEXIST. It features his working band with special guest Frank Wess on Tenor Sax & Flute, Mark Gross on Alto Sax, Tadataka Unno on Piano and John Lee Frettless on, you guessed it, Guitar! Collectively, this time around, they are known as Winard Harper & Jeli Posse as Winard reflects on the ancient Mande. They were highly skilled artisans that were culturally and historically influential in the areas of song, music and speech that could best be described as Griots, which are story tellers.
Tune in all month long to WEAA-FM to hear Winard and his story telling posse’ release COEXIST. Winard Harper and Jelli Posse are our Cool Jazz Pick of the Month.
So why the name change? It came from several factors but in the end, Winard says it’s mostly evolution. “I’ve watched the changes over the four decades I’ve been playing professionally. Times are rough. People are hungry for context, connection and truth. There is a lot of pain, uncertainty and isolation. Jazz has always been social commentary and expression. It’s the sound scape of the human experience. In Africa, the Jeli (griot) played a vital role in society. It’s still needed today. Who better to fill it than the emerging musical voices of our times? I see Jeli Posse as a place to nurture musical and social consciousness from the audience and musicians.” Says Winard.