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Stefon Harris and Blackout in Golden, CO

Geoff Anderson By

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Despite Harris' intentions of staying current and in the moment, comparison with players of the past is inevitable. And when it comes to the vibes, Milt Jackson, of course, is the man. Attending a concert of a great vibraphonist isn't just an aural delight, it's visually enthralling as well. Jackson's mallet work was a blur when he put it in high gear. Harris' playing can be like that too with his mallets appearing to be tiny dust storms rolling over the vibes (or marimba). One difference, though, is that Harris tends to make more large leaps across several octaves.

That's where his full body, side-to-side shucks and jives come into play. He sets up his vibraphone directly in front of the audience and his marimba to his left—that way he can bounce back and forth between them. He also tends to play them simultaneously, lending a deep, rich texture to the band's sound.

Blackout ended the evening with the only song of the set penned by Harris (together with Benjamin), "Langston's Lullaby" dedicated to Harris' 7-month-old son who, in turn, was named after poet Langston Hughes. Often, bands like this one that can play at the speed of light with ease have a tough time slowing down and concentrating on a beautiful melody. Here, they proved they can offer the pretty and pastoral as well as the fast and furious.


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