by Stefon HarrisStefon Harris


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Over two CDs going back to 2004, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and his group Blackout have continued to become more progressive and contemporary at the same time. Employing hip-hop beats on occasion along with straight-ahead jazz or funk, the ensemble seems to enjoy their all-over-the-map concept while adhering to nothing specific. There's nothing wrong with this attitude, but at times one wonders if there will arise a laser beam focus in doing something consistently well. For this version of Blackout, Harris and company have moved from their first home on Blue Note records to the Concord label, and the resulting music bears mixed results. Within the context Harris previously established, the spiky sax and vibe line of "Shake It for Me," with the vibraphonist urged on by the tight and sharpened drumming of Terreon Gully, or the bass clarinet/vibes tandem line of Gully's "Tanktified" sets up ruminant bass and sax, both succeeding in an intriguing way. Hard bop via the Jackie McLean cover "Minor March" or the straight-ahead track "The Afterthought" both hit the nail solidly on the head, the band collectively charging forward. The most impressive teamwork during "Blues for Denial" has Harris leading the way as the band speeds up into a frenzy, again in a bop framework. Combining funk and go-go on an extrapolation of a George Gershwin theme, "Gone" is a cute discourse, adding wah-wah and space tones. There's an adventurous take of the Buster Williams ballad "Christina" which by now is a widely played standard, with the marimba of Harris and multiple add-on lines. Keyboardist Marc Cary is in the band, and positively influences the limited contemporary side of jazz. Then again there's Casey Benjamin's vocoder, which since its early use by the likes of Stevie Wonder has been one of the silliest devices ever conceived to vary the sound of the human voice. Benjamin is one of the best young alto saxophonists in modern jazz -- an instrument he should stick with. The cover of Wonder's "They Won't Go" is darker than the original, and plain weird. Every recording from Stefon Harris has been uneven to a certain extent, with his excellent Evolution less so than all the others. There's a majority of excellent music played on this album, but the feeling conveyed is that Urbanus wants to appeal to exactly what its title suggests, an urban crowd less interested in innovation or expansion as it is the beat.

Product Details

Release Date: 08/25/2009
Label: Concord Records
UPC: 0888072312869
catalogNumber: 31286
Rank: 130570

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Stefon Harris   Primary Artist,Marimbas,Vibes
Marc Cary   Piano,Keyboards,fender rhodes
Mark Vinci   Clarinet,Bass Clarinet,Guest Appearance
Ben Williams   Bass
Y.C. Laws   Percussion,Guest Appearance
Casey Benjamin   Alto Saxophone,Vocoder
Terreon Gully   Drums
Anne Drummond   Alto Flute,Guest Appearance
Jay Rattman   Bass Clarinet,Guest Appearance
Rigdzin Collins   Violin,Guest Appearance
Sam Ryder   Clarinet,Guest Appearance
Anna Webber   Flute,Guest Appearance
Y. C. Laws   Percussion,Guest Appearance

Technical Credits

George Gershwin   Composer
Marc Cary   Arranger,Composer
Joe Ferla   Engineer
Ira Gershwin   Composer
Stevie Wonder   Composer
DuBose Heyward   Composer
Stefon Harris   Arranger,Composer,Producer
Casey Benjamin   Arranger,Composer
Sameer Gupta   Composer

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