This Saturday the Lawrence Jazz Concert Series will conclude by featuring acclaimed vibraphonist Stefon Harris. While the posters hanging around campus advertise that the concert will feature a quartet, Harris will in fact be bringing his new, radically different quintet, Blackout.Stefon Harris’ new release on the Blue Note label, “Evolution,” features this quintet. This new, jazz-forward group pushes the boundaries of modern jazz with new arrangements of old standards, as well as new compositions featuring the interesting group sound that Harris is aiming for with Blackout.
The quintet features Casey Benjamin on alto sax, Marc Carey on keyboards, bassist Darryl Hall, and drummer Terreon Gully. The group has begun to forge its own sound, giving us a unique view of modern jazz. Harris has this to say about his new group: “We grew up listening to music that thumped. We love jazz and respect it and we think jazz should thump.”
With that indication, it’s no surprise that Harris’ new project draws heavily on R&B roots and the hip-hop genres. The sound which they have achieved has been described by The Washington Post as “contemporary jazz on their own terms.”
Harris, an undeniable jazz force, has now released five albums as a group leader. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, he has been nominated three times for a Grammy, is a multiple Down Beat and JazzTimes poll winner, and was widely acclaimed by reviewers for all five of the albums he released as a leader.
He has performed at the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, UCLA’s Royce Hall, the Symphony Center in Chicago, Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, and the Sydney Opera House. He has toured and recorded with a wide array of artists – including Wynton Marsalis, Joe Henderson, Cassandra Wilson, Buster Williams, Kenny Barron, Charlie Hunter, Kurt Elling, Cyrus Chestnut, Steve Coleman, and Steve Turre – both in the classical and jazz styles.
Harris is known for his energetic stage presence and his spontaneity in the concert setting, and, with this talented and unexpected group, will surely put on an incredible show. The musical genius of Harris’ jazz vision is rare, so this will not be a concert to miss.
The Stefon Harris Quintet plays Saturday, April 24 at 8:00 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel. Tickets are available at the Lawrence box office, 832-6749.