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Stefon Harris/Jacky Terrasson: Kindred

One of the most frustrating things about Jacky Terrasson’s last CD, A Paris, was him using vibraphonist Stefon Harris only on the too-short closing track, “Metro.” Apparently that funky vignette was a sly segue to this exhilarating project, Kindred, which, like its namesake, wonderfully captures the enormous empathy shared between these two intrepid composer-instrumentalists.

If Terrasson’s playing seemed a bit drowned out by A Paris’ arching conception, he takes no prisoners on this speedball of a CD. With Harris’ impeccable timing, pianistic ideas and love for high-speed chase, Terrasson has to turn it up a notch or two, and he does so to great effect. After opening with a frolicsome reading of “My Foolish Heart,” which quickly illustrates Harris and Terrasson’s binding rapport-they often conclude each other’s melodic statements during their solos-they kick in full-throttle on the angular funker “Tank’s Tune.” Underneath Terreon Gully’s crisp, rhythmically responsive drums and Tarus Mateen’s steamrolling bass lines, Harris and Terrasson chase each other through a labyrinth of knotty improvisations. Even on the erstwhile “Body and Soul,” Harris and Terrasson engage in some rhythmically intense interaction as they transform the ballad into a Latin-funk groover with Terrasson supplying loads of Parisian-impressionism accompaniment before his concussive solo. Their playfulness shines brightly on the classic “What Is This Thing Called Love?” as they transform it from an alluring ballad to a brisk game of cat and mouse, with Terrasson following Harris’ lead through elongated passages and quick rhythmic jabs.

Harris and Terrasson exude unfettered joy on uptempo songs like Bud Powell’s jubilant bop classic “John’s Abbey” or the skittish “Rat Race,” which quotes the theme from “The Twilight Zone,” and when they slow down after their tussling to deliver sparkling ballads-like the misty “Deja” and the infectious, midtempo “Shane”-they retain their telepathic flair and rhythmic spark without sacrificing the songs’ gentle structures. Simply put, Kindred is one of the best recordings by either of these artists.

Originally Published