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Like the Modern Jazz Quartet, the foursome on this new release folds visions of great classical music into a mainstream jazz setting. Tchaikovsky's 1892 ballet has always provided special holiday vibes for the holidays. This year, Bob Belden's musical arrangements have put a new spin on it; still leaving a lot of space for veteran improvisation. The quartet swings.
Stefon Harris, 28, received his master's degree in jazz performance from the Manhattan School of Music in 1997. Strongly influenced by the music of Igor Stravinsky, the vibraphonist balances melody, harmony and rhythm on his instrument with an easy-going, fluid technique. Veteran pianist Kenny Barron has had a great deal of success in the past 10 years or so working with widely different artists; as have Ron Carter and Lewis Nash. Coming together for this interpretation, the quartet conjures up marching soldiers, relaxed dancers, a gentle waltz, and folk idioms from around the world. With each of the four participating equally, the quartet gets its unique character from all directions. Highly recommended, this one comes just in time for the holidays.
Track Listing: The Swingin' Nut (Overture Miniature); Marche Touche (March); Groove of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy); Blues a la Russe (Russian Dance Trepack); Bedouin Dreams (Arabian Dance); Oriental Rhythm (Chinese Dance); Mirlitonova (Dance of the Reeds); Vaunce of the Flowers (Waltz of the Flowers).
Personnel: Stefon Harris: vibraphone, marimba; Kenny Barron: piano; Ron Carter: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.