Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Stefon Harris: Pursuing the Tradition

R.J. DeLuke By

Sign in to view read count
The idea that we should just copy and recreate music from the past is not actually the cultural tradition of the art form. —Stefon Harris
Musician and composer Stefon Harris wears many hats. But he wears them all well.

He is a composer, performer, bandleader, businessman, educator and leadership trainer. He handles each with a clear head, confidence and sense of purpose. He's bright, articulate and relates to people on any level.

Harris' to-do list on any given day can involve the fact that he is associate dean and director of the Arts Department at the Manhattan School of Music. He also runs an app company called the Melodic Progression Institute that has produced an app for musicians called Harmony Cloud. In January 2019, the company will release a major update to that software. It's dedicated to helping musicians learn how to play by ear, "so that they can connect with human beings all over the world in unfamiliar environments," says Harris.

Meanwhile, his leadership training is done in the corporate world. Harris talks about team dynamics and how to get the best out of a business team, usually illustrating those ideas by bringing a band with him.

"It's fascinating, because it's one thing to talk to someone about an idea and it's another when you demonstrate in music," says Harris. "Not only do we show what goes right, we show when things go wrong. Then we show how to change your approach in how you are communicating with other people. You can immediately feel the change in the music and you feel much more connected emotionally. Art has the potential to create an 'A-ha' moment in a way that words seem to fall short of."

Then there's his life calling as a musician. He plays vibraphone, writes music and performs at times with other stars of jazz. Harris, leading his longstanding band Blackout, has put out a 2018 album, Sonic Creed (Motéma), his first with the band since Urbanus (Concord) in 2009. The band will get a chance to go out on the road before long, doing dates in support of the music. For many musicians it's what they thrive on. For Harris, too. But it's also kind of a nice breather.

"I'm actually looking forward to it," he says, "because I'm involved in a lot of different endeavors from education to app development to doing corporate presentations. So I'm actually really excited to get back on the stage and express what's in my heart and connect with human beings. It's a blessing to be able to play music for a living.*

The recording has only two Harris compositions. This time, it's a tribute to some of his heroes and there are covers of songs by Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Abbey Lincoln, Bobby Timmons and one of his vibraphone idols, Bobby Hutcherson. The music isn't a reproduction. That's never part of his vision. He is true to himself and his music.

"Part of the concept of Sonic Creed is to pay reverence to our elders and to make music that is directly relevant to us," says Harris. "When we pay tribute to our elders, we try to pay tribute in a way that our elders would want us to. The idea that we should just copy and re-create music from the past is not actually the cultural tradition of the art form. It's an art form about documenting the here and now and telling stories in an authentic way as possible.

"Another important element is that the music we chose to amplify on this album is all music of people that we've had direct life experiences with. I've spent time Abbey Lincoln. I've spent lots if time with Bobby Hutcherson and played with him. I was able to spend time with Horace Silver and Wayne Shorter. This music is a direct reflection of my life experience and my development as a man."

Harris says the band is constantly growing. They convene periodically to document "that point in history, what's happening in the world, as authentically as we possibly can. Then we part ways. Because Blackout is really a band of leaders. Everyone is a composer. Everyone has their own music, their own ensemble. We spend time apart, growing in our own spaces. Then we come back together every couple of years and bring all of that new excitement and energy together to create something unique and special. So this current project is perfectly timed. Everyone in the band has been out and busy doing exciting things. When we came back together in the studio, the chemistry absolutely incredible. The album came together in one of the most effortless situations I've ever been a part of."

The band includes James Francies on piano, Casey Benjamin on sax, Terreon Gully on drums, Mike Moreno on guitar, Joshua Crumbly on bass and Felix Peikly on clarinet, with guest spots from people including Pedrito Martinez on percussion and Elena Pinderhughes on flute. The music was recorded over three days.


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Dat Dere

Dat Dere

Stefon Harris
Sonic Creed

Catching Up With
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Read more articles
Sonic Creed

Sonic Creed

Motéma Music

Ninety Miles

Ninety Miles

Concord Picante



Concord Music Group

African Tarantella: Dances With Duke

African Tarantella:...

Blue Note Records



Blue Note Records

The Grand Unification Theory

The Grand Unification...

Blue Note Records

Date Detail Price
7:30 pm
Stefon Harris
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
9:30 pm
Stefon Harris
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
8:00 pm
Stefon Harris
Loeb Playhouse
West Lafayette, IN
8:00 pm
Stefon Harris, Blackout
Jo Long Theatre
San Antonio, TX

Related Articles

Read Michael League: Snarky Puppy's Jazz-Schooled, Grassroots Visionary Interviews
Michael League: Snarky Puppy's Jazz-Schooled,...
by Mike Jacobs
Published: December 10, 2018
Read Conor Murray & Micheal Murray: Putting Falcarragh On The Jazz Map Interviews
Conor Murray & Micheal Murray: Putting Falcarragh On...
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 29, 2018
Read Pete McCann: Mild-Mannered Superhero Guitarist Interviews
Pete McCann: Mild-Mannered Superhero Guitarist
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 28, 2018
Read Kris Funn: Bass Player, Story Teller Interviews
Kris Funn: Bass Player, Story Teller
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: November 27, 2018
Read Phillip Johnston: Back From Down Under Interviews
Phillip Johnston: Back From Down Under
by Ken Dryden
Published: November 27, 2018
Read Anwar Robinson: From American Idol To United Palace Interviews
Anwar Robinson: From American Idol To United Palace
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: November 25, 2018
Read "Bokani Dyer: African Piano" Interviews Bokani Dyer: African Piano
by Seton Hawkins
Published: June 7, 2018
Read "Dan Monaghan: The Man Behind The Swing" Interviews Dan Monaghan: The Man Behind The Swing
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: February 16, 2018
Read "Mica Bethea: Quintessential Band Geek" Interviews Mica Bethea: Quintessential Band Geek
by Barbara Salter Nelson
Published: January 29, 2018
Read "Sidney Hauser:  Justice and Jubilation" Interviews Sidney Hauser: Justice and Jubilation
by Paul Rauch
Published: July 17, 2018