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Quite astounding and very listenable--a rare combination
Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 02/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're a young, up-and-coming jazz vibes player and composer and you name your latest cd Grand Unification Theory, you're probably asking for trouble. But you know what? I don't think Stefon Harris cares. Yeah, it's brash, yeah, it's over the top, but if you've got the concept, the chops, and the chutzpah to back it up, maybe--just maybe--you can pull it off.Actually, let's forget about the grandiosity for a moment and just concentrate on the music. Harris is certainly the most accomplished vibes player of his generation--check out his solos on "The Velvet Couch" and "March of the Angels," for example--and he's no slouch as a composer either. Plus he lays down some tasty marimba as well. But where he really excels is in choosing band mates and arranging. Utilizing 12 musicians--many not very well known (Terreon Gully on drums, a name new to me, especially shines)--in various combinations, Harris always seems to find the ideal creative context for each and all to strut their stuff. In a work this ambitious, it's a given that there will be unwieldy passages, but, amazingly, these are kept to a minimum. And even if there's a bit of repetition, things never seem to bog down. What I especially like about this disc is the stunning variety of sonic soundscapes Harris achieves, all within recognizable (if sometimes rather radically tweaked) song forms.With jazz in the hands of such prodigiously talented young practitioners as Stefon Harris, Jason Moran, Jacky Terrasson, Peter Epstein, Gregory Hutchinson, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Ben Allison, Michael Blake, Ben Monder, Guillermo Klein, and others, it has a very bright future. And with this fine disc, Stefon Harris vaults to very near the head of the class."
A concept album that works!
Darryl Dickson-Carr | Dallas, TX USA | 03/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stefon Harris is far from being the first jazz artist to attempt a concept album. Wayne Shorter's _The All-Seeing Eye_ (which this album resembles musically), Grachan Moncur's _Evolution_, and, perhaps most distinguished of all Charles Mingus' _Pithecanthropus Erectus_ all put forth complex musical visions suggesting humanity's evolution, with varying degrees of success. While it might seem arrogant and overly ambitious for Stefon Harris to attempt such a vision on his third album as sole leader, he pulls it off. Each subsequent listening makes this clearer. It's also an *accessible* grand concept album, with some funky, danceable tunes alternating with the moodier, more cerebral compositions. This album proves that Stefon Harris is among the best younger musicians, regardless of genre, and perhaps among the best, period."
A spectacular achievement
Case Quarter | CT USA | 05/13/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"read the linear notes and you think of mingus' black saint and the sinner lady, there's a story here, and maybe you want to fit the story to the music, and if that works, fine. but if you're like me and the story doesn't fit the music, then toss out the story and listen to the music, instead of forcing a fit.
there's one section that sounds like herbie hancock's watermelon man. it cooks. but that's not where the music is going either. that's just part of it.
g.u.t. was composed by stefon harris, and therein lies the genuis. brilliant orchestration. rather than worrying about grand theories and how they work, or mingus' black saint as a blueprint, or whether or not this is a jazz suite, tone poem, or one man's contribution to orchestral music, let the music play and take in the experience."