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Stefon Harris: Black Action Figure

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Like the clarinet, the vibraphone has witnessed a sudden re-emergence of popularity in recent years. Sure, there have been a handful of players like Joe Locke, Cecilia Smith, and Steve Nelson who have kept the instrument a vital force in the ’90s; but it was Stefon Harris’ debut A Red Cloud of Dust, which nabbed “Best Debut Album” this year at the Jazz Awards, that really got many listeners all worked up.

While A Red Cloud of Dust was an admirable first effort that aptly demonstrated Harris’ impeccable chops; the ambitious compositions sounded more like collages of ideas than fully conceived statements. His latest album, Black Action Figure however advances Harris as a formidable composer and leader. Like its predecessor, the new record proceeds in a suite-like manner with evocative interludes segueing into more extended compositions. Black Action Figure exudes post-Motown bop vitality as the music seamlessly shifts from blistering bop to enchanting ballads to heady funk.

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