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Stefon Harris: The Grand Unification Theory

Jim Santella By

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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 each theme without unlocking any clear-cut secrets of the universe. Flutist Anne Drummond brings the suite around full-circle with several passionate episodes. Piano, tenor saxophone, trombone, trumpet and vibraphone improvise apart, as if they're telling stories that require interaction. It's the beauty of improvised music: interpretation belongs to the listener. Harris has created a masterpiece. He and his twelve improvisers provide theories; the rest is for us to decipher through study. Audio samples, including two movements from this ambitious suite, can be found at the

Track Listing: Prologue; The Birth of Time; Velvet Couch; Transition; Corridor of Elusive Dreams; Escape to Quiet Desperation; Song of the Whispering Banshee; March of the Angels; The Mystic Messenger; Rebirth; The Grand Unification Theory; Intro Epilogue; Epilogue.

Personnel: Stefon Harris- vibraphone, marimba; Xavier Davis- piano; Tarus Mateen Kinch- bass; Terreon Gully- drums; Anne Drummond- flute; Mark Vinci- clarinet; Tim Warfield- tenor saxophone; Derrick Gardner- trumpet; Steve Turre- trombone, shells; Douglas Purviance- bass trombone; Myles Weinstein- classical percussion; Khalil Bell- African percussion.

Title: The Grand Unification Theory | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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