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Harris Fulfills His Promises

*** STEFON HARRIS "A Cloud of Red Dust" Blue Note

October 18, 1998|Bill Kohlhaase

In the last year, 25-year-old vibraphonist Harris has created a stir appearing and/or recording with everyone from saxophonist Joe Henderson to guitarist Charlie Hunter. His debut CD holds to that promise, marking Harris as the vibraphone's next man of destiny.

An intensely melodic player, Harris still manages to emphasize his instrument's percussive side, creating improvisations that contain a wellspring of lyric and rhythmic ideas. The 10 original tunes (and one, fittingly, from fellow vibist Bobby Hutcherson) find Harris stating delicate unisons with flute or soprano sax, exploring roots music ("One String Blues") or swinging with irresistible force (the title tune).

Different numbers feature pianist Mulgrew Miller, saxophonists Greg Osby and Steve Wilson and trombonist Steve Turre, who adds conch-shell tones on Harris' appropriately mystic "The Prophet." The pieces unfold in something of a continuous suite, with short, impressionistic vibe and percussion interludes connecting some. While a few themes seem at odds with Harris' lyrical side ("Jamo," "Sophistry"), "A Cloud of Red Dust" is the most important album from a vibraphonist in several years.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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