446

Stefon Harris: African Tarantella: Dances with Duke

Troy Collins By
Published:
Views: 8,235
Stefon Harris: African Tarantella: Dances with Duke
With five previous albums on Blue Note, vibraphonist Stefon Harris has proven to be one of the label's most adventurous new artists. More conceptually expansive than many of his generation, Harris has long been interested in extended forms and suite-like structures. His 2003 album, The Grand Unification Theory (Blue Note), dealt with the journey from birth to death as its subject matter. In light of such lofty ambition, reinterpreting selections from Duke Ellington's suites seems natural.

Harris demonstrates adept arranging capabilities with a set of forward-thinking interpretations that are uniquely modern, yet respectful of the source material. With the aid of an instrumentally varied and dynamic chamber ensemble, including trombonist Steve Turre and clarinetist Greg Tardy, Harris is able to update the rhythms and intensify the overall sense of dynamics.

Harris colors these lyrical selections with subtle shadings and nuanced textures, accenting the rich harmonies and fertile beauty of Ellington's writing. He conducts the ensemble with graceful enthusiasm, stepping out as a soloist of buoyant ebullience. The opening trio of selections from Ellington's New Orleans Suite reveal the subtle innovations of Harris' arrangements. By deepening the chiaroscuro, amplifying the rhythmic drive and brightening the harmonies, Harris brings Duke's music swinging into the 21st Century.

Two selections from The Queen's Suite, one of Ellington's most ambitious and rewarding long-form compositions, are delivered with an air of majesty and regal authority, much like the Duke himself. "Sunset and Mocking Bird" is updated with simmering energy, while "The Single Petal of a Rose" features Harris accompanied only by bass and cello. Soloing with tender mellifluousness, Harris transforms Ellington's charming melody into a stately sonata.

Harris' own suite is an epic undertaking, blending seamlessly with the previous selections. Elevating the energy level without sounding at odds with Ellington's suites, the three closing selections from Harris' The Gardner Meditations merge opulent Afro-Cuban rhythms with dulcet reflection.

Stefon Harris proves his mettle as arranger, composer and soloist on this refreshingly optimistic album. African Tarantella offers imaginative new variations on the classics while firmly establishing a new voice.


Track Listing: Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta; Portrait of Wellman Braid; Bourbon Street Jingling Jollies; Sunset and the Mockingbird; The Single Petal of a Rose; Memoirs of a Frozen Summer; African Tarantella; Dancing Enigma.

Personnel: Stefon Harris: vibraphone, marimba; Xavier Davis: piano; Derrick Hodge: bass; Terreon Gully: drums; Anne Drummond: flute; Greg Tardy: clarinet; Steve Turre: trombone; Junah Chung: viola; Louise Dubin: cello.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Blue Note Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop For Jazz

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Ninety Miles
Ninety Miles
Concord Picante
2011
buy
Urbanus
Urbanus
Concord Music Group
2009
buy
African Tarantella: Dances With Duke
African Tarantella:...
Blue Note Records
2006
buy
Evolution
Evolution
Blue Note Records
2004
buy
The Grand Unification Theory
The Grand Unification...
Blue Note Records
2003
buy
[no cover]
New Directions
Blue Note
2000
buy
Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
guitar
Chick Corea Chick Corea
piano
Brad Mehldau Brad Mehldau
piano
McCoy Tyner McCoy Tyner
piano
Joshua Redman Joshua Redman
saxophone
Joe Locke Joe Locke
vibraphone
Bobby Hutcherson Bobby Hutcherson
vibraphone

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google banner ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Fund All About Jazz's Future