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WEEKEND REVIEWS / Jazz : Harp Soars, but Band Doesn’t

Most of the opening magic in Everette Harp’s appearance at the Baked Potato Pasadena on Friday was dispensed by sleight-of-hand master Kevin Pinnell, who worked the room during the Harp band’s delay in getting started.

When Harp and his five-piece group finally took the stand, it was the leader--generally playing alto and soprano saxophones, with an occasional foray on an electronic wind instrument--who provided the wizardry.

Harp plays in a familiar ‘90s jazz genre, alternating fast, blues-drenched runs with soaring flights into high harmonics. But on pieces such as “You Made It Better” and “Let’s Wait a While,” Harp revealed an ability to reach beyond the sometimes tired musical platitudes of the contemporary style into a more demanding kind of improvisation.

The most pervasive question that was raised by Harp’s performance was why such a gifted young artist chooses to limit his creative options by using an accompaniment dominated by predictable, rhythm-machine-like routines and mindless back beats.

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