Stefon Harris to blend musical genres to create upbeat performance Oct. 25

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September 26, 2019

By Taylor Notsch '21

Stefon Harris

Stefon Harris

Stefon Harris is “one of the most important artists in jazz,” according to the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

The music the vibraphonist, composer and educator produces, however, may not be what you expect.

Harris and his band Blackout defy traditional jazz definitions with their slinky soul, funk, rhythm and blues and hip-hop styles. This blend of musical genres creates an upbeat and energetic performance.

Harris and Blackout will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25, at the Gorecki Family Theater in the Benedicta Arts Center, College of Saint Benedict. The show is part of the Fine Arts Series at CSB and Saint John’s University.

Audiences can expect a show that is unique, as past performances from the group feature improvisation and audience involvement. As explained in Harris’ 2011 TED Talk, There are no Mistakes on the Bandstand, “every ‘mistake’ is an opportunity in jazz” to take the story to a new place.

As a four-time Grammy nominee and seven-time Best Mallet Player by the Jazz Journal Association, Harris provides jaw-dropping skills on the vibraphone. His hands fly through the air like fireworks as he hits each note precisely and beautifully.

It’s more than just the music for him, however.

“I don’t make music just because it sounds pretty or it’s fun,” Harris told USA Today. “I’m interested in proliferating empathy in the world.”

Bringing together their own unique perspectives through music, Harris and Blackout indulge in a sort of cultural experiment. They’re creating music that hasn’t been created before, in a way that gives audiences a whole new outlook on jazz.

“The tradition of jazz has never been to play old music,” Harris explained to the Boston Globe. “The cultural tradition of jazz has always been to create a platform for the amplification of marginalized voices, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Harris added that jazz is always evolving and the art enables the general population to understand marginalized voices. The group uses jazz as a platform to articulate their own life experiences as African-Americans.

“The point (of jazz) is to create art and tell a story in a way that inspires everyone to tell their own stories in organized sound,” Harris told All About Jazz. “It's not just about my story. But the only story I can tell with authenticity is that which I've experienced in real life.”

“I make a record when I have something to say that I can’t figure out how to say in words, and music is the most articulate platform for me to express it,” Harris added to the Boston Globe.

Harris and Blackout will not only leave you with a newfound appreciation for jazz, but open your eyes to the world around you.

Tickets for Stefon Harris and Blackout are $28 for adults, $25 for seniors, $21 for faculty and staff, $15 for youth and $10 for CSB/SJU students.

For tickets, call the Benedicta Arts Center Box Office at 320-363-5777 or order online.

Stefon Harris and Blackout is sponsored by Club Total Fitness.

A pre-performance reception is from 6-7 p.m. in the Gorecki Family Theater lobby. A cash bar will be available, with appetizers on a stick.

Harris will also be in residency for two days, working with CSB and SJU music and global business leadership students.

The activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.