Stefon Harris: Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta
From the New Orleans Suite: Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta
Stefon Harris (vibes)
African Tarantella: Dances With Duke (Blue Note 0946-3-41090-2-4)
Stefon Harris (vibes),
Steve Turre (trombone), Anne Drummond (flute), Greg Tardy (clarinet), Xavier Davis (piano), Junah Chung (viola), Louise Dubin (cello), Derrick Hodge (bass), Terreon Gully (drums).
Composed by Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn. Arranged and orchestrated by Stefon Harris.
Recorded: Brooklyn, NY, August 29-31, 2005
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
While Stefon Harris was in a Brooklyn studio during the last three days of August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. How differently might Harris have arranged the three selections from Ellington's and Strayhorn's New Orleans Suite, which he recorded at that time, if he'd had the chance to observe and reflect upon the destruction of New Orleans by Katrina, and the disastrous aftermath?
Regardless, Harris produced moving and stunningly realized interpretations of these pieces, and the appropriately titled "Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta" is a prime example of his skills as both vibraphonist and arranger. His mix of clarinet, flute, viola and cello, with an additional trombone vamp, opens the track, sounding like a much larger orchestra. Harris plays the prayerful, proud melody over this evocative backdrop, his reading fervent, uplifting and blues-tinged. His reflective solo follows, in which his glistening lines, crisp articulation and gorgeous tone combine to stunning effect – there is such majesty and intelligence to his playing, with equal traces of Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson for good measure. Tardy's subsequent clarinet solo is both technically impressive and emotionally charged. The reprise, if anything, improves on the already memorable opening.
Reviewer: Scott Albin