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A Cloud Of Red Dust (1997)

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Jason Moran

A Cloud of Red Dust marks Stefon Harris' solo recording debut. The classically trained Harris plays both the vibraphone and percussion on this release, and his classical influence is never far from the surface. He employs a large band, including horns, flute, and percussion, all of which add color and texture to his compositions. In addition, he makes use of brief musical interludes between the substantive tracks in order to connect songs and musical themes. The best tracks on the album reveal Harris' promise as a player and composer. "And This Too Shall Pass" is highlighted by pianist Mulgrew Miller's thoughtful accompaniment. Greg Osby (alto sax) and Steve Turre (trombone) add strength to "The Prophet." The title track, again including some choice work by Miller, and Bobby Hutcherson's "For You Mom & Dad" are each active, straight-ahead efforts. Harris likes to experiment with rhythm and tempo changes, often playing behind the beat to interesting and dramatic effect. There is also a distinct African influence in his compositions; his use of percussion and Alvester Garnett's powerful drumming most indicative. As a whole, A Cloud of Red Dust offers a fine baseline from which to track Stefon Harris' development as perhaps the next great vibraphone stylist. ~ Brian Bartolini