When Winard Harper hits high gear, it sounds like a freight train full of percussion is headed your way.
The Winard Harper Sextet, which comes to Murphy's Place tonight and tomorrow, features a propulsive lineup in which the New Jersey jazz drummer is accompanied by a percussionist, Alioune Faye, along with Brian Horton on tenor saxophone, Ameen Saleem on bass, T.W. Sample on piano, and Josh Evans on trumpet.
"We've got a lot of percussion floating around," Harper said in an interview. "We've got the drums, xylophone, hand drums, djembe, all kinds of stuff."
Harper is returning to Murphy's Place after a memorable gig in February, when he laid down the rhythms for a concert that was recorded for release as a live CD with David "Fathead" Newman on saxophone, Claude Black on piano, and Clifford Murphy on bass.
"Oh, that was fun," Harper said. "Fathead and I have a long history. I've been working with him, off and on, for 15 or 20 years. We've done a lot of work together. And with Clifford and Claude, they're like family. It was like a family affair."
Harper, who records for the Savant label, said he is looking forward to coming back to Toledo for two nights of concerts with his sextet.
But he is equally excited about jazz-master classes at local high schools and jam sessions for students that he is scheduled to conduct at Murphy's.
The jam sessions are open to artists of all ages, Harper said, although he particularly enjoys working with young musicians.
"I try to teach in the schools as often as I can," he said, adding that he wants to introduce more people to jazz and also to "replenish the jazz audience."
"I think this band [his sextet] is one that can bridge the gap. We can help take the music to people that are not necessarily jazz fans because of the rhythms and the energy, and because most of the guys in the band are young. Children really enjoy the band."
The Winard Harper Sextet will be in concert at Murphy's Place, 151 Water St., at 9 and 11 p.m. today and tomorrow. Tickets are $10, $15, $20, and $25 from the club, 419-241-7732. Harper and his group also will conduct jam sessions at 8 p.m. tomorrow for high school students, and 9 p.m. Monday for University of Toledo students at Murphy's.