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Stefon Harris: A Generation's Preeminent Voice Of The Vibraphone

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris and double bassist Ben Williams.
Courtesy of the artist
Vibraphonist Stefon Harris and double bassist Ben Williams.

From Lionel Hampton to Milt Jackson, to Bobby Hutcherson and beyond, every jazz generation has had its swinging heroes on the vibraphone. Since around the turn of the century, we've had a leading light in Stefon Harris.

Harris may in fact be the preeminent voice of his instrument, but he says that's not that important. "The vibraphone, in my opinion, is just a bunch of metal and wood. Instruments are just tools," he says. "What's important is the mission behind the individual who's utilizing the tool."

For Harris, that mission is the proliferation of empathy. "I want my audience to feel the connection between human beings," he adds. "I want them to witness five brothers who are on the stage, who've known each other for a long time, who are willing to take chances in the moment to discover beauty. I want them to feel that sense of synergy, that sense of struggle and that sense of courage."

Harris applies those experiences onstage with his band Blackout. Join us for a ferocious and intuitive set they delivered in February at Clement's Place, a small club at Rutgers University, in Newark, N.J.


Stefon Harris: vibraphone and marimba; Marc Cary: keys; Ben Williams: double bass; Jaleel Shaw: saxophone; Terreon Gully: drums.

Set List:

  • "Bye Bye Blackbird" (Ray Henderson)
  • "Chasin' Kendall" (Stefon Harris)
  • "Dat Dere" (Bobby Timmons)
  • "Gentle Wind" (Marc Cary)
  • "Now" (Bobby Hutcherson)
  • "Thanks For The Beautiful Land On The Delta" (Duke Ellington)
  • Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    Sarah Geledi left her job in advertising in Montreal to pursue a career in music in New York City. She fulfilled that mission, producing content for the JAM Festival at WBGO, segments for The Checkout, and programs for WWOZ and PRI's Afropop Worldwide. She also served as a producer for NYC Winter Jazzfest before landing the "job of her dreams," producing radio for Jazz Night in America.