Personnel: Billy Harper (tenor saxophone); Eddie Henderson (trumpet); Francesca Tanksley (piano); Louie Spears (bass); Newman Barker (drums).
Recorded live in Kaosiung, Taiwan on April 22, 1991.
This Taiwan performance predates the Korean performance on Volume 1 by five days and it may be the best of three releases (maybe) that collectively function as an audio verite documentary of a jazz group on the road. The cohesive way the four pieces here complement each other makes it sound like a complete performance. The recording quality again isn't optimal -- it's Harper's saxophone and Eddie Henderson's trumpet which suffer slightly in clarity this time -- but no way should that serve as an excuse to avoid savoring these snapshots of a great jazz unit in the process of coming together. "Priestess" takes off from a very effective melody chopped into sections and topped by more of those great Harper & Henderson harmonies. "Trying to Make Heaven My Home" aims for Coltrane spirit force intensity from the start, with Harper's sax line serene as the quintet double times around him before settling into a bluesy setting led by Francesca Tanksley's piano. Harper launches into some intense, blues-tinged improvising but the piece ebbs and flows as Henderson's solo begins muted and sparse. After Tanksley and bassist Louie Spears work in stately, swirling tandem, they take the dynamics down and the piece out with a reprise of the intense opening theme. "My Funny Valentine," the lone standard on these three discs, gets a pretty masterful performance from all and "Destiny Is Yours" works off its fanfare horn melody through spare Henderson and full Tanksley solos over sliding riffs by Spears. Harper is masterful through, tossing off razor sharp lines that are as dignified and sophisticated or biting and acidic as the music demands. The 12 1/2 minutes flow by so organically it seems to be over just like that -- in the positive sense that the group always sustains interest through gripping solos, different ways of interacting, tempo shifts, command of dynamics, any number of delectable details. And that holds for all the performances on On Tour, Volume 2. It's just exceptional jazz that constantly engages the listener, following its own flow and internal logic and continually changing up on your expectations...which is a pretty good basic blueprint of what all great jazz should strive for. ~ Don Snowden