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Stefon Harris: A Generation's Preeminent Voice Of The Vibraphone

Jul 21, 2020
Originally published on May 22, 2020 2:52 pm

From Lionel Hampton to Milt Jackson, to Bobby Hutcherson and beyond, every jazz generation has had its swinging heroes on the vibraphone. Since around the turn of the century, we've had a leading light in Stefon Harris.

Harris may in fact be the preeminent voice of his instrument, but he says that's not that important. "The vibraphone, in my opinion, is just a bunch of metal and wood. Instruments are just tools," he says. "What's important is the mission behind the individual who's utilizing the tool."

For Harris, that mission is the proliferation of empathy. "I want my audience to feel the connection between human beings," he adds. "I want them to witness five brothers who are on the stage, who've known each other for a long time, who are willing to take chances in the moment to discover beauty. I want them to feel that sense of synergy, that sense of struggle and that sense of courage."

Harris applies those experiences onstage with his band Blackout. Join us for a ferocious and intuitive set they delivered in February at Clement's Place, a small club at Rutgers University, in Newark, N.J.

Musicians:

Stefon Harris: vibraphone and marimba; Marc Cary: keys; Ben Williams: double bass; Jaleel Shaw: saxophone; Terreon Gully: drums.

Set List:

  • "Bye Bye Blackbird" (Ray Henderson)
  • "Chasin' Kendall" (Stefon Harris)
  • "Dat Dere" (Bobby Timmons)
  • "Gentle Wind" (Marc Cary)
  • "Now" (Bobby Hutcherson)
  • "Thanks For The Beautiful Land On The Delta" (Duke Ellington)

Credits:

Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

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