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Baton Rouge Morning Advocate

RODERICK HARPER is a Significant stylist and rising star among local young jazz vocalists. This Washington D.C. native always knew he wanted to sing and per- formed with school and city choirs and in local musi – cals. His favorite vehicles were R&B and pop, not jazz. In fact his first experi- ence with jazz came serendipitously when he purchased Wynton Marsalis’ album, Think of One Album. At first he found the music confusing and hard to understand but he was looking for a challenge at the time. Becoming a jazz singer would be just that! However, not until he visited Southern University to check out their music program was he really immersed in jazz. He distinct- ly remembers walking down the halls of the music building and “boom, jazz was everywhere!” Roderick left D.C. where his family had been his strongest musical influence and came to study at Southern with Alvin Butiste. His dedication and talent forged strong connections with Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, Picture Perfect, Alvin Batiste’s Jazzuo- nauts and the Roderick feels strongly responsible for the music he composes and performs and wants to inspire and set an example for others. His discovery of a jazz career has that fairy tale quail- ty that promises a happy ending.

Jazztimes Magazine

. . . Jon Hendricks and Company’s show also introduced a young musician sympathetic to his style, Roderick Harper of Southern Uni- versity in Baton Rouge. The 23 year-old Harp- er, whose vocal aspiration were fueled by rhythm and blues, showed himself to be an able convert to jazz when Hendricks invited him onstage for a round of Thelonius Monk’s Rhythmaning. . .

THE WASHINGTON POST

. . .Duke Ellington’s “Sound of Love,” which featured a warm vocal contributed from Roderick X. Harper.

Chicago Sun-times

. . . Among his young aces are bassist Roland Guerin and the smooth and seri- ous singer, Roderick Harper. Their Soulful duet of “Body and Soul” expanded into a reading of “I Can’t Get Started” that fea- Tured Gerry Mulligan, (artistic di- Rector of the jazz series), on piano

Baton Rouge Morning Advocate

. . . Vocalists Harper notes that black jazz Musicians of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s had to contend with frustrating racial barriers. Using drugs may have been their way of coping, he says. “We don’t have to deal with that. They broke down those walls. It’s our responsibility to take advantage of what they’ve given us” Harper says. While tipping their hat to Wynton Marsalis for planting the seeds of the traditional jazz renaissance, the guys in Picture Perfect cite their teacher, Alvin Batiste, as their foremost influence. “He’s the bridge builder. He’s passing on a legacy to us that we’ll by passing on to the next generation.” Harper says. . . . . . on vocalists Roderick Harper. “he’s a very special talent. He literally loves jazz. He’s able to do all the idioms of that period. But his own personality is beginning to Form. It comes through in the way he turns a Melody.” . . .

STATE – TIMES Pycayune

. . . The new jazz quintet Picture Perfect followed Out of Nowhere with a bluesier set that included a smoky vocal rendition of “Confirmation” by singer Roderick Harper.

The New Orleans Tribune

Local Musician Makes Debut as Jazz Fest Solo Artist

by Joyce Kyles

Roderick Harper is one of the featured local artists performing at this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. And, while he’s taken part in the festival several times in the past, it has always been in the background. 

“This is my first time performing as a solo artist, and I couldn’t be more excited about it,” says Harper. “I greatly enjoy performing with others. But, this platform gives me the chance to further establish myself as a solo artist. I always say that if given the chance, I will show you what I can do. I’m really looking forward to it.” 

Harper, a native of Washington, D.C., says while he is fond of his native city, his heart is definitely in New Orleans. 

“This is where my soul belongs,” he says. “My parents are from Louisiana. I attended college in Louisiana. My roots are here. It has given me so much. I am exactly where I belong.” 

He has been singing most of his life and was part of numerous jazz groups growing up. The first musical instruments he learned to play were the violin and trombone while in elementary school. He later took an interest in the clarinet and guitar in middle school. 

While attending college at Southern University in Baton Rouge, he participated in every ensemble and talent competition possible. 

A monumental turning point in his musical career came, however, when he joined Alvin Batiste and the Jazzstranaunts. It was during this time that he gained the attention of jazz pianist great, Ellis Marsalis. Harper was invited to sing with Marsalis at the recommendation of Batiste, and eventually landed a featured spot in the Ellis Marsalis Quartet. The rest, as it has often been said, is history. 

Harper would springboard this experience into an impressive and expansive list of world renowned singers and musicians with whom he’s had the pleasure to perform. In addition to Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis, he has worked with the likes of the Joe Sample, Danny Barker, Wessel Anderson, James Carter, Nicholas Payton, Dizzy Gillespie, Kent Jordan, Joe Lovano, Bobby Watson, Marcus Roberts,Stephen Scott, Max Roach, Terence Blanchard, Mark Whitfield, Cyrus Chestnut, Brian Blade, Betty Carter, Jon Hendricks of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and countless other local, national and internationally recognized artists. 

One of his biggest inspirations has come from legendary jazz singer and pianist, Shirley Horn. Harper admires her body of work, making mention of Horn’s greatest acknowledgments came during the second half of her musical career. Reflecting on her career, he said, “She had been nominated multiple times for a Grammy Award. However, she didn’t get her first one until she was in her sixties. She was passionate about her work. I am enthusiastic about the overall direction of my musical career. It’s never too late to do what you love and are passionate about. I’m passionate about my two girls in college, New Orleans, and just going for it.” 

Harper has a strong love for jazz music, but he is not limited to jazz. 

“In the early years, I used to call myself a jazz vocalist. Over the years, I’ve come to just say ‘vocalist’ because honestly, I can sing it all. I love music and the ability to connect with people as a musical artist. I’m ready and available to hit the road and travel anywhere I’m given the opportunity to perform,” he says. 

He opened up about being an independent artist and its many rewards. But, he also pointed out the fact of it having its share of challenges. 

He explains, “It is sometimes difficult as an independent artist to get exposure. I am appreciative of media outlets such as The New Orleans Tribune which take notice of local talent and share our works with their audiences. It is humbling and appreciated.” 

Harper already has two recorded CD’s under his belt. The first, Beautiful Beginnings, was produced by Delfeayo Marsalis. The second, The Essence Of…was produced by Grammy Award winner, Nicholas Payton. Additionally, he has been a featured vocalist on Kent Jordan’s Out of this World, CD,  BET’s BlacKout, HBO’s Soul of the Game, Hurricane Katrina Documentary The Unmasking of Katrina, as well as a McDonaldsand Folgers Coffee commercial. 

His third studio album has now been released. Perfect Imperfections can be found on all major musical outlets. He is currently working on an additional project, with details to be announced later in the year.  

OffBeat Magazine

A vocalist since early childhood, Roderick Harper sings with elegance and ease. The Washington, D.C., native studied jazz with the late Alvin Batiste at Southern University in Baton Rouge as well as technique-enhancing classical voice.

 In New Orleans, Harper and the Nola Dukes gig at venues including Snug Harbor, the Royal Sonesta Hotel and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. They perform out of town, too, in many other Louisiana locales and as far away as Biloxi, Detroit and Chicago.

Harper recorded his new album, Perfect Imperfections, at Neutral Sound Studio in New Orleans. It’s a warm and cozy set of seven standards plus two compositions each by contemporary trumpeter-composers Wynton Marsalis and Nicholas Payton. Collectively, the songs demonstrate Harper’s vocal finesse and interpretive gifts.

Most of Perfect Imperfections’ selections feature the album’s resident jazz trio, pianist Oscar Rossignoli, bassist Robin Sherman and drummer Chris Guccione. The project’s palette, however, shifts unexpectedly when Wurlitzer and Fender Rhodes keyboards replace the acoustic piano in the two Marsalis pieces, “In the Court of King Oliver” and “Rosewood,” as well as Payton’s “Shades of Hue.” There’s also a string trio in Harper’s blissful take on Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s “My Romance” and a gospel blues–sounding Hammond organ in Louis Jordan’s 1946 hit, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’.”

While the varied instrumentation and instrumental solos work, Harper remains the captain of his ship. He smoothly weaves the Marsalis and Payton songs alongside such familiar classics as “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “Green Dolphin Street” and George and Ira Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” That seamlessness also holds true for the soul singing Harper does for Payton’s “Give Light, Live Light, Love.”

Marsalis’ “In the Court of King Oliver,” an homage to New Orleans jazz greats, is especially fun. While the trio bounces and swings, Harper sings the story: “In the court of New Orleans they came, swinging songs they made. Form the heart of New Orleans to Chicago’s swinging scene. Pops played for a while, but then he went on his way. He never will forget the memories they made.”

Harper, in touch with tradition though he is, is making new jazz memories.

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UPCOMING DATES

  • December 13, 2019
    Crystal Palace, New Orleans, La
     
  • December 28, 2019
    The Roosevelt New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
     
  • January 4, 2020
    Hotel Mazarin, New Orleans, Louisiana
     
  • February 29, 2020
    Brennan's, New Orleans, LA
     

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Gigs

  • December 13, 2019
    Crystal Palace, New Orleans, La
     
  • December 28, 2019
    The Roosevelt New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
     
  • January 4, 2020
    Hotel Mazarin, New Orleans, Louisiana
     
  • February 29, 2020
    Brennan's, New Orleans, LA
     
  • March 21, 2020
    House Of Broel, New Orleans, LA