Third Annual Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival Performer: Leroy Harper

Leroy Harper, a former sideman with James Brown, is set to perform Friday on the first day of this year’s third annual Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival. He takes the stage between 10:15-11:15 p.m. as part of three days of live jazz, soul and R&B music to be presented between Sept. 28-30, 2018 on historic Carver Street in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Appropriately known as “Funky” Leroy Harper, the saxophonist has also performed with Stevie Wonder, Millie Jackson, Nappy Brown and James Levi of Herbie Hancock’s HeadHunters. He also served as founder of several bands, including Sylk, Spur of the Moment, Painted Man (who are also featured at this year’s Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival), and the Soul Power Posse. But he’ll always be most closely associated with Brown, with whom he worked for 16 years.

Harper says the experience made him a more nimble, collaborative performer. “He did things his own way, so for any new musician in the band it was like a totally new experience – the way you make music and even just having to watch his signals,” Harper told the Wilmington Star-News. “Usually when you play songs, you play it ’til the end, but with him right in the middle of a song [snaps fingers], he could go into a whole other song at an instant. Just off a hand signal.”

Guitarist Damon Wood, also a former James Brown sideman, called Harper “an incredibly talented sax and keyboard player” in his book Working for the Man, Playing in the Band: My Years with James Brown, adding that Harper taught others how to manage a side career while still remaining true to Brown’s incredible work ethic. Harper’s Painted Man album was released while the saxist was still on the road with Brown, paving the way for a successful solo career that continues to this day.

Over the years, Harper has appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the Arsenio Hall Show, the Fox morning show, the American Music Awards, Woodstock ’99, the BET Awards and Live 8, among others. Closer to home, the Castle Hayne, N.C., native has headlined the Beach Music Festival in Stuart, Virginia; the Pleasure Island (N.C.) Seafood and Blues Festival; and the Charleston Music Hall in Charleston, S.C.

As always, the Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival is free. The lineup for this year’s festival, including performance times, can be found here. Get the latest information by following us on Facebook. In addition to this great music, there will be food and merchandise vendors, children’s activities, and a wine and beer garden. Bring your lawn chairs.