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Ninety Miles: Boulder, CO, January 17, 2013

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Ninety MilesMacky AuditoriumBoulder, COJanuary 17, 2013Cuba has long held an allure for jazz musicians. The sounds and particularly the rhythms emanating from that country have influenced jazz nearly from the beginning. From early in the 20th Century, the Latin tinge, as Jelly Roll Morton called it, has seasoned the jazz sound. By the 1940s, through the work of musicians like Mario Bauza, Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie, Afro Cuban jazz became an important part of the music. For nearly a century, American jazz musicians have been incorporating the sound of Cuba into American jazz. The ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefon Harris / David Sanchez / Christian Scott: Ninety Miles

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On paper, Ninety Miles was a tantalizing project from the beginning; bringing together three of the most exciting voices in modern jazz--Puerto Rican-born tenor saxophonist David Sanchez, New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott, and New York vibraphonist Stefon Harris-- and transport them to Havana to play with two outstanding, piano-led Cuban jazz quartets. The American red tape took a year to negotiate--which shows a dogged determination of sorts on all sides--but the musical connection that resulted was clearly instant, judging by the exhilarating septet interplay and inescapable grooves captured here. Pianists Rember Duharte and Harold López-Nussa each contribute ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefon Harris / David Sanchez / Christian Scott: Ninety Miles

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They're all relative youngsters in a jazz world that still finds nonagenarians like Dave Brubeck hitting the summer festival circuit. Tenor saxophonist David Sánchez may be the elder statesman on the marquis of Ninety Miles, with vibraphonist Stefon Harris in the middle position at 38 and trumpeter Christian Scott still on the shy side of 30, but each of them has already made his mark, making this an all-star in-the-making American/Cuban collaboration on an upward trajectory. Scott's visibility has been soaring, with an album almost every year since Rewind That (Concord, 2006), and delivering incendiary live performances ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Stefon Harris and Blackout in Golden, CO

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Stefon Harris and Blackout Mt. Vernon Country Club Golden, CO October 15, 2009

Stefon Harris is like one of those small, wiry running backs that gets the job done through finesse and quickness rather than brute force. Indeed, at his concert Thursday night at the Mt. Vernon Country Club, Harris sometimes darted back and forth in front of his vibraphone reaching between the bass clef and treble clef like a ball carrier cutting back to slip through a hole in the line to daylight. Occasionally, he would step back and contemplate his vibraphone--then ...

INTERVIEWS

Stefon Harris: Authenticity and Audacity

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Authenticity is a special word for vibraphone wizard Stefon Harris when it comes to his art, which springs from the tradition of jazz music, but is approached through a modern lens that takes into account the sounds and perspective of 2009.He has enough audacity--also a special word for Harris--to say it clearly, to elucidate what he is going for in his music. And he has enough audacity on the bandstand to go for it.“It's one of President Obama's favorite words," the effervescent, upbeat Harris says with a chuckle [The current U.S. president became associated with the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefon Harris & Blackout: Urbanus

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Since emerging in the late 1990s as the vibraphonist of his generation, Stefon Harris has been unfairly tagged as an overly cerebral player for Blue Note projects like the elaborate Grand Unification Theory (2003) and African Tarantella: Dances for Duke (2006). Evolution (Blue Note, 2004), Harris' first with his groove-happy Blackout band, went a long way to demonstrating a capacity for making accessible music with plenty going on under the hood. Following a few years of touring--including outstanding 2006 performances in Ottawa and Montreal--Urbanus ambitiously blends Harris' many concerns; as resonant for heart and body as it is engaging for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefon Harris: African Tarantella: Dances with Duke

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Given the number of tribute albums coming out these days, it's refreshing to see an artist reference lesser-known works and take a road less-travelled in terms of approach. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris' African Tarantella enlists a streamlined instrumental configuration to rework excerpts from Duke Ellington's 1970 “The New Orleans Suite" and 1958 “The Queen's Suite," along with parts of his own commissioned “The Garner Meditations." The result is less cerebral than The Grand Unification Theory (Blue Note, 2003), but no less ambitious.

The Grand Unification Theory was a sweeping work stylistically--an impressive disc that left some listeners in the cold after ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefon Harris: African Tarantella: Dances with Duke

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefon Harris: African Tarantella: Dances with Duke

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With three selections from Duke Ellington's “New Orleans Suite, two from his “Queen's Suite and three more from Stefan Harris' own “Gardner Meditations, African Tarantella conveys a sincere appreciation for lyrical beauty. Like the original purpose for a tarantella, the music transfixes you with its magic spell. Much of Ellington's music had that quality, and it's not surprising that Harris would dedicate his latest album to such a well-known body of work.

With a nonet that rides high on both various orchestral timbres and jazz combo reflections, Harris delivers a lovely chamber jazz concert that thrills with a ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Day 10 - Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, July 7, 2006

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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12

As the Montreal Jazz Festival has continued to grow in size, one of the problems it has faced is finding enough suitable indoor venues to accommodate the growing number of series that are still within walking distance from the core of the festival, which is at the city's Place des Arts. The Suono Italia series, for example, takes place at Cabaret, a small club that's a good fifteen ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Day 6 - Ottawa International Jazz Festival, June 27, 2006

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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11

If day five of the TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival was about the excitement of new discovery, day six was about affirmation. Even though inclement weather reduced the audience to a mere shadow of what it should have been, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and his Blackout group delivered the best performance at the main stage yet--and perhaps what will turn out to the best main stage event ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefon Harris & Blackout: Evolution

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It takes no time at all to get into Evolution , Stefon Harris’ fifth album for Blue Note, the young vibraphonist’s fourth as leader and his first with his new band. Immediately the music breaks into a sprint. And its appeal is equally as instantaneous. There is no acclimation period, no finger-drumming developmental warm-up, no amusing 30-second intro track. So it’s funny that this disc should bear the title Evolution , by all Darwinian or Lamarckian accounts an excruciatingly slow transformative process. But this, it seems, is the point Harris wants to make. Jazz music—even his own—has been swimming in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefon Harris & Blackout: Evolution

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Vibraphonist Stefon Harris first came to attention on releases by trombonist Steve Turre and, most notably, with eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter's groove-happy Pound for Pound band. Since that time, with an approach that could perhaps be accused of sometimes being a little too cerebral and not visceral enough, Harris has released three fine recordings as a leader. Putting aside loftier ideals and bridging the divide between the intellectual approach of last year's ambitious Grand Unification Theory and his more groove-centric work with Hunter, Harris delivers Evolution with his new group, Blackout. The result is intelligent contemporary jazz that aims for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stefon Harris: The Grand Unification Theory

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Writing from a physical as well as philosophical viewpoint, Stefon Harris has developed his suite for 12 jazz artists into an exciting adventure about life and death, and what goes on in between. It's all there: the big bang theory, the pleasures of life, the inevitable tragedies, mourning, afterlife, rebirth, and tribute. The leader's vibraphone and marimba provide searing timbres, while his ensemble colors gently. The suite builds and ebbs in order to depict changes in mood. Harris' cohesive ensemble mirrors the physical universe, with its constant motion--much of it in wide-open harmony--and subtle changes in direction. Soloists expound upon ...



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