Stefon Harris and Blackout – Evolution

Stefon Harris and Blackout
(Blue Note – 2004)
by John Thompson

Can it be? Is this some new Fusion? I saw Vibraphonist Stefon Harris perform with The Classical Jazz Quartet that featured Lewis Nash and Kenny Barron at the 2003 Mt. Hood Jazz Festival. The music played that day was a mixture of classical and jazz music; however, Harris and Blackout play a different style on the new Blue Note release, “Evolution.”

The core members, whom are a talented group, include Harris (V,Marimba), Casey Benjamin (AS), Marc Cary (Keys), Darryl Hall (B), and Terreon Gully (D). Guests are Anne Drummond (F), Xavier Davis (P), and Pedro Martinez (Perc). Since the CD is produced by Harris, I must give credit for the overall musical style, which is more late 70’s Fusion than a classic jazz style. The influences of Return to Forever, Weather Report, and the Billy Cobham bands are heard, as well a Bobby Hutcherson-Gary Burton.

“The Lost Ones” bring to mind a romantic mood of Roy Ayers claim. Gully adds plenty of hot sauce throughout the cd, including the drum solos on “Nothing Personal,” and “Blackout.” Subtleness and beauty appear on “For Him, For Her”, “A Touch of Grace”, “Message to Mankind,” and Sting’s “Until”.

If you like late 70’s fusion minus the guitar and electric bass, you should like this release. It brings back great memories in a very good way. – – 4-½ stars.