Roderick Harper

Evolving
(RHM)

Roderick Harper presents music that’s easy to gravitate toward, whether as a new or longtime fan. The New Orleans vocalist offers a smooth and elegant timbre. But its specific character exudes a lightness and moves through melodies with a playful flow, rather than a dense and serious tone.

A take of “The Great City” showcases this point, as Harper’s vocal slides fluidly from note to note, leaving the occasional aural nod—grace note-like in brevity—curled over syllables at the end of a lyric line. Secondary elements like Chris Guccione’s swing drumming on the track, and the deceptive upward note movement for a line about “drag[ging] you down,” enhance the music’s playful core.

“Infinite Heart,” the album’s one original, features saxophonist Donald Harrison and is propelled by a melody eschewing tonal predictability. Here, Harper can break away from the slippery slope of conventional jazz chord progressions, without abandoning his assured and comforting style.