Sunday, March 06, 2016

Stefon Harris and Sonic Creed: Jazz Metaphor

From the stage of Atlanta's Spivey Hall last night, Stefon Harris told us "I have to believe in what I'm doing to let it take me away from my wife and son," and that's why he calls his band Sonic Creed.   He'd flown wife and son from Newark for the weekend, to be with Daddy and to celebrate the boy's seventh birthday.  That was by no means the only moment of "awww" in the concert.

Number by number, with a few words between pieces, Harris developed a metaphorical view of what we were seeing. Generous introductions of each musician were part of his message:  Musicians of different generations and backgrounds "problem-solved" every second to redeem "failures" on the fly.  The band included Mike Moreno on guitar, James Francies on piano, Joshua Crumbly on bass, and Jonathan Pinson on drums.

We watched the process of problem-solving as he picked up his mallets at the vibraphone to develop a long improvisation from three notes that we shouted out to him (F, C, Bb).  From those three notes, he launched music pieces in waves, sometimes with a "ha!" or a "huh?!"  Eventually, his band mates got in on the act, and the song morphed into a raucous arrangement of the 1920s standard "Bye Bye Blackbird."

Aside from the beauty of tone that Harris draws from tapping, slamming, and massaging the keys of the vibraphone, Harris's red-topped mallets gave us a way to see how he developed patterns up and down the keyboard.

For an encore, he brought sensitivity and joy to a standard that he says he just learned last year, "I Fall in Love Too Easily," ending on a soft slide of the mallet from one tone to the next, a vibraphone sigh.  Ah!

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