Vibrulous. A Cloud of Red Dust is 25 year old vibraphonist Stefon Harris' debut as leader. It is an exciting debut because it provides a fresh entry into a sparsely populated field in jazz and illustrates how Blue Note is proactively supporting young artists while also maintaining their proven lable of artists and reissue programs.
Jimmy Smith Again?. The vibraphone and the organ in jazz have a lot in common. They are both fairly uncommon in jazz practice as compared to reeds and brass. And they are both dominated (if not in practice, then historically) by single performers. Where the king of the jazz organ is Jimmy Smith, the undisputed king of the vibraphone is Milt Jackson. There have certainly been other notable players. The Swing Era had Red Norvo and Lionel Hampton. Bebop had Jackson and Terry Gibbs. Latin Jazz had Cal Tjader and Post Bop/Mainstream has Gary Burton. While this is not the whole list, this is the lion's share.
Stefon Harris represents a novel addition to this group. He is a classically-trained prodigy who could play 20 instruments before the eighth grade. His performance style is steeped in the young lions Post Bop tradition, being more Joshua Redman than Wynton Marsalis. His blues sensibility is more McCoy Tyner than Gene Harris. His compositions are more Roy Hargrove than, well, Wynton Marsalis.
A Cloud of Red Dust is made up of all Harris originals except for the final "For You Mom and Dad" which is a Bobby Hutcherson tune. The pieces range from the upbeat "Sophistry" propelled by Mulgrew Miller at the piano to the ballad "In the Garden o Thought" which benefits from Steve Wilson's soprano saxophone and Steve Turre's Trombone. A Cloud of Red Dust is a fine first endeavor from a multitalented artist. This disc is well worth the price for vibes fans.
Track Listing: Sophistry, And This Too Shall Pass, Nature Music, In The Garden of Thought, Drum Storm, The Prophet, Sacred Forrest, A Cloud of Red Dust, One String Blues, Jamo, For You Mom & Dad.
Personnel: Stefon Harris: Vibraphone; Mulgrew Miller, Jason Moran: Piano; Dwayne Burno: Bass; Greg Osby: Alto Saxophone; Steve Wilson: Soprano and Alto Saxophones; Steve Turre: Shells and Trombone; Kaoru Watanabe: flute, June Gardner: Vocals.