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Winard Harper: Drummer Enjoys Catching Spirit of Jazz Great Blakey

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Drummer Winard Harper says the jazz legacy of Pittsburgh native Art Blakey goes far beyond being the leader of a legendary band.

“We all have a lot of Art Blakey in us," the New York City jazz star says. “We all have that spirit in us."

Harper will perform a Blakey tribute Saturday in East Liberty, but he insists that spirit will be the key to the show.

“There will be stuff on my CDs that are a big part of Blakey," he says. “They were all influenced by him, his spirit, the band he led, the pattern he set for jazz."

Harper, 45, a Baltimore native, says, for instance, the way Blakey (1919-90) helped develop talent is an inspiration to him.

He says he doesn't want to put himself up on the same level as Blakey, but feels honored to have had players such as saxophonist Javon Jackson and pianist Stephen Scott in his band the way Blakey had stars such as saxophonist Wayne Shorter or trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

He also says Blakey has placed some of his legacy in the Harper family in another way: His brother, Philip, was a member of Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the '80s.

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