Jacky Terrasson-Stefon Harris Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jacky Terrasson-Stefon Harris Quartet


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New partnerships happen all the time in jazz, born of a serendipitous affinity between musicians discovered during a jam session or cameo appearance. Pianist Jacky Terrasson first played with Stefon Harris as a guest during the vibist's stint at New York's Village Vanguard in November 1999, and their spontaneous chemistry convinced them to embark on a bigger project together. The resulting quartet album, Kindred (Blue Note), merits its title not just because their instruments operate on similar principles--where a vibraphone has mallets, a piano has hammers--but because Terrasson and Harris share a melodic aesthetic; despite their relatively brief mutual history, they complement, anticipate, or finish each other's musical thoughts. Terrasson excels as the group's default rhythm player, comping with uncharacteristic ferocity beneath Harris's liquid melodies, which he alternately elucidates on vibes and the cooler marimba. Throughout the album's mix of standards and originals, the two leaders--crisply and vigorously supported by bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Terreon Gully (Idris Muhammad subs on a couple tracks)--engage in deft deliberation. They toss phrases back and forth like hot potatoes, and even when they pick up the pace, trading off every bar instead of waiting the customary four, they manage to reshape the melody at each turn. Sometimes they go head-to-head in expansive double solos, weaving in and out of each other's lines like a pair of slalom skiers on the same slope. There's plenty of rip-roaring bebop bravado here--on the blitzing "Tank's Tune" one of the players literally shouts with joy after a particularly daring exchange--but even with so much rhythmic flash on display, the improvised melodies are meaty enough to hold their own. And on warhorses like "Summertime," Randy Weston's "Little Niles," and "Body and Soul," the quartet uses exciting new arrangements, reharmonizing some tunes while rendering others with an almost abstract pointillism. I can only imagine what this group, so fiery in the studio, will sound like freed from the constraints of that environment. Wednesday and Thursday, November 28 and 29, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, November 30 and December 1, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, December 2, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kate Swan.

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