Review: The Grand Unification Theory by Stefon Harris

The Grand Unification Theory by Stefon HarrisI’d made multiple mentions of Stefon Harris’ The Grand Unification Theory prior to its release in February. The word “ambitious” was used by myself and nearly every person referring to the project. The word is appropriate. What else do you call a young man who writes a 13-movement suite about the meaning of life for 12 musicians in his third album out as a leader?

I’ve always been a fan of concept albums as well as the vibraphone so I eagerly sought this CD out. I’m happy to report that I was not let down. The Grand Unification Theory, which takes its title from a theory in quantum physics, embraces jazz, funk, Latin, African, and Classical influences. Stefon’s vibraphone and marimba are in the forefront when you hear the CD, but when you really listen to it, it’s his composing that really strikes you. The movements that Harris has written are structured yet free enough for the musicians to swing and groove. All of the musicians that have been gathered for this release prove themselves, but drummer Terreon Gully really makes his presence known. I’ll be watching for his name in the future.

I’ve had this CD for over a month and had difficulty in writing a review. I’ve discovered that the reason for this is that I never had the opportunity to sit down and listen to the entire 75 minutes at one time, uninterrupted. I’ve heard most of it here and there, but the full effect isn’t realized until it’s listened to in the manner that it’s meant to. The reward is there if you can take the time, sit back in your chair, and follow the titles with the track sequence. Having said that, there are numerous cuts that easily can stand alone. “Prologue” is an infectious tune that you’ll remember all day. “The Velvet Couch” is funky and “March of the Angels” is also memorable.

Stefon Harris has got my attention. I’m anxious to see how he follows up this project.

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