446

Stefon Harris: African Tarantella: Dances with Duke

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
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; Jonah Chung: viola; Louise Dublin: cello.

Title: African Tarantella: Dances With Duke | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Second Act CD/LP/Track Review Second Act
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Imaga Mondo CD/LP/Track Review Imaga Mondo
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Port Of Call CD/LP/Track Review Port Of Call
by John Sharpe
Published: August 23, 2017
Read May I Introduce To You CD/LP/Track Review May I Introduce To You
by James Nadal
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Honey And Salt CD/LP/Track Review Honey And Salt
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 22, 2017
Read To the Bone CD/LP/Track Review To the Bone
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 22, 2017
Read "TITOK" CD/LP/Track Review TITOK
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 14, 2017
Read "Out Of The Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Out Of The Blue
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 4, 2016
Read "Still" CD/LP/Track Review Still
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 23, 2016
Read "Rock Pool Mirror" CD/LP/Track Review Rock Pool Mirror
by Barry O'Sullivan
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "Free Radicals" CD/LP/Track Review Free Radicals
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 7, 2017
Read "Strong Tea" CD/LP/Track Review Strong Tea
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 27, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.