By Kira Grunenberg | Published April 2021
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.
Evolving: Infinite Heart; Never Let Me Go; Someday We’ll All Be Free; The Great City; Look What I Got; Valsa Minera; Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love; The Rubicon Song; In Summer (Estate’); Sack Full Of Dreams; Salty Dog; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?. (56:54)
Personnel: Roderick Harper Muhammad, vocals; Donald Harrison (1), Roderick Paulin (9), saxophone; Oscar Rossignoli, piano, percussion; Robin Sherman, Amina Scott (3), Roland Guerin (12), bass; Chris Guccione, Jamison Ross, Gerald Watkins, Geoff Clapp, drums; Ellis Marsalis (2), Jesse Davis (3, 4), Shea Pierre (10), piano; John Jones, Rhodes, (12); Adrienne Dotson, handclaps (11).