Stefon Harris told an audience of about 300 that he and his colleagues intended to “organize vibration into motion” at the Folly Theater on Saturday, October 26. That’s an alluring notion, but I would have enjoyed the concert even more had the bandleader allowed the members of Blackout to put backfields into motion.
Harris, a master of vibraphone and marimba, kept his New York based band of funk-inclined aces in swing mode. Multi-instrumentalist Casey Benjamin and drummer Mark Colenburg are members of the groundbreaking Robert Glasper Experiment. Keyboardist Marc Cary helped the late Roy Hargrove integrate jazz with hip-hop and R&B. The accomplished bassist Ben Williams is part of Pat Metheny’s Unity Group.
The temperate tone wasn’t entirely surprising. Blackout’s 2018 album Sonic Creed is a bit bland. Yet Harris’ melodic gift and winning showmanship almost negated the frustrating absence of funk. Even so, a pair of silky Quiet Storm ballads featuring Benjamin on vocoder and keytar were the highlights of the low-key evening. The selections provided tantalizing hints of how a very good performance might easily have been transformed into the best show of the year.
Setlist: Dat Dere, Gentle Wind, Chasin’ Kendall, Now, Let’s Take a Trip to the Sky, improvisation/It Could Happen to You/Bye Bye Blackbird, For You, The Cape Verdean Blues
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)