The death of jazz great George Duke still weighs heavily on the heart of sax player Everette Harp.
Harp was a member of a dream band that Shaun LaBelle, my friend and Minneapolis multi-instrumentalist, put together for shows last week at the Dakota to promote his new CD, “I’m Back.” LaBelle’s longtime friends Jeff Lorber, a father of fusion and smooth jazz innovator, and Stokley, the drummer, vocalist and Twin Cities native, rounded out the quartet.
All four of them had connections with Duke, but Harp’s may have been the strongest based on his reaction to news of the composer and keyboard pioneer’s death at 67 on Aug. 5.
“I was in an airport with Jeff Lorber getting ready to board a flight to Racine, Wis., when [Duke’s] son called and told me he died,” said Harp. “It was not a pretty sight. Jeff had to sit and watch me inconsolably sob for two flights.”
A smile came to Harp’s face when he recalled his first phone call from Duke, which Everette couldn’t believe was happening, as you’ll see on my startribune.com/video.
“He says, Hey man, Anita Baker needs a sax player. Do you want to do that? I said ‘Yeah, of course.’ And that’s how we met.”
Q: I hear that Anita Baker is difficult.
A: For me she wasn’t. She has a reputation with sound men. She has things that she wants to hear. She’s had her fill of sound men, that’s for sure. But as far as the musicians, no. The people [who were] in the band never really had problems.
Q: What’s your favorite Kenny Loggins story?
A: [Laugh] We were playing in Park City, Utah. Kenny is one of those who goes for it every show — 100 percent. I’ve also been known for that as well. I just remember after we did this one song “Celebrate Me Home,” one of the highlights of his show, we both ran backstage and were sucking on oxygen canisters together. [Laughs, covers mouth, makes wheezing/inhaling sounds.] And he goes, Are you OK? And said, “Yeah, are you?” It was pretty funny. I played with him for 14 years on and off.
Q: What makes your production relationship with Shaun unique?
A: Shaun and I have worked together for so many years — since my first record. We spend a lot of time together. Shaun is like a little brother to me. We spend so much time together, we kind of can predict what each other is going to do or think or play. Sometimes I think we actually surprise each other with something a little new. It’s always a little special. We have a tendency to write well together.
Q: If I got a permit for you to be a street musician, how much money do you think you would make on Nicollet Mall in two hours?
A: I would have no idea. As hot as it is right now, I wouldn’t do it.