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Stefon Harris: The Grand Unification Theory

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illustration of Stefon Harris

Unlike other “miscellaneous instruments,” such as the French horn or the bass clarinet, the vibraphone has played a central role in the history of jazz. From Lionel Hampton’s influence on Benny Goodman’s quartet in the ’30s to Bobby Hutcherson’s voice in free jazz ventures by Eric Dolphy and Andrew Hill in the ’60s to Milt Jackson’s monumental second half of the last millennium with the Modern Jazz Quartet, the vibes have been present for many of the music’s defining moments.

Yet like other niche instruments, the vibraphone has not had many practitioners. It is probably possible to count all the important vibes players on the fingers of one hand. (To the three above, add Red Norvo and Gary Burton.)

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