Customer Reviews: Black Action Figure
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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on September 22, 1999
After listening to this cd several times I had to go back and listen to Stefon Harris' first CD, A Cloud Of Red Dust, to confirm my initial impressions. They have been confirmed. Black Action Figure shows considerable progress from Harris' first CD. Everything about the CD is an improvement. The writing and playing are both stronger. More importantly for me, the new recording is much more cohesive than the first cd. While I enjoyed the first CD, I felt like Harris was trying to do too many different things in the fifty minute length of the CD. Not so with Black Action Figure. This should not be taken to mean that there is not a variety of moods on the new cd, but that the songs fit together nicely as a whole, documenting where Stefon Harris was at the time of this recording. Harris does not play it safe and seems to be searching for a personal way to express himself. This is something I respect a great deal. I would also be very negligent if I did not mention that Harris proves himself more than worthy of the critical attention he is receiving as one of the significant new vibraphone players to arrive in recent years. This is shown to best advantage on the CD on the songs featuring the quartet only. Check it out!
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on October 21, 2015
“Black Action Figure” on the cover, jumping lightly over the vibes, represents the young energy and joy of playing. Even though an original CD has been published 16 years before, reproduced mid-sixties groove of this album sounds still fresh and appealing to today’s ears. Stefon Harris expresses composing as a great source of joy and inspiration in his life in the notes to the listeners. He claims making every endeavor to find a single tone embodying untold mysteries of the human spirit and to search the second tone among a seemingly endless matrix. Young lions, at this time of recording, gathered here underpins the young vibist’s music, while stepping slightly to the side. The soundscape they create here seems to be connected with a road to the “Maiden Voyage” world. Following to the common club noise Steve Turre dashes out with fanfare like trombone. Harris, making thorough preparation for this day, kicks off with young and powerful play in “Feline Blues.” Jason Moran has Harris, who tends to fly away, on the ground with his deliberate play. Ironclad rhythm brigade support soloists substantially. “There Is No Greater Love” and “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” are where Harris shows his interpretation with beautifully clear tone. “Of Things To Come” would be a centerpiece of this album, riding on a simple and easy to hum melody by Harris, the album producer Greg Osby and a cutting figure Gary Thomas weaves imaginative solos. “After The Day Is Done” starts quietly, Moran supports Harris’s progress without obtruding his way. “Conversations At The Mess,” where Harris creates “suikinkutsu,” or “water koto cave,” like sound is a remarkable short break. Moran plays passionate and imaginative solo on jaunty march-like “Black Action Figure.” “Collage” wears an autumnal atmosphere. Gary Thomas’ flute resonates melancholically. “Alovi,” which features evocative solo by Osby, is another highlight of this album. The propulsive “The Alchemist,” via experimental approach in “Chorale,” naturally settles into the composed world of “Faded Beauty.” Harris spins out simple and memorable melody. Throughout the album Harris plays at the fore of his musical world. He decorates his stunning technique with musical inventiveness and young energy.
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on May 4, 2000
This young man has the range of a musician twice his age. The music not only captivates, but hyptonizes, with it fine blend of vibes, base and horns. This is a must in any jazz audiophiles library.
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on March 13, 2013
‘Action’ is the magic keyword that most vibraphonists take when they take to
the stage—and Stefon Harris is truly one of those shining world class examples.
Now that Stefon Harris had became a worldwide sensation on the jazz scene in
the wake of his landmark debut CD, A Cloud Of Red Dust, in 1998, he followed
this with this dynamic highly praised second CD a year later that took him to an
exciting new acoustic level. Released with equal success in 1999, Black Action
Figure showcase the vibraphone master in a supercharged tour de force where
the action heats up and the action gets fired up as Harris handles this bonafide
masterpiece with astonishing approach, which is mortified by high octane solos
and swinging vitality. Featuring another round of classic new compositions and
more excellent improvisations, this exhilarating track set feature classic hits like
the opening track opus Feline Blues, which is proceded by Of Things To Come,
After The Day Is Done, The Alchemist and Faded Beauty, as well as his superb
reinditions on standards like, There Is No Greater Love, You Stepped Out Of A
Dream and the Onaje Allan Grumbs’ classic Collage. What even contributes to
the uplifting success of this CD is how the dashing young vibraphonist extends
his introduction on the jazz scene as he creates the solid balance which is done
to astonishing effect. Backed with a stellar band lineup featuring Gary Thomas,
Greg Osby, Jason Moran and Steve Turre, the critically lauded chart-topping hit
is a masterful and towering work of genius which chimes with greatness, tuneful
imagery and a striking change of pace that will absolutely live on for the ages as
one of the true jazz masterworks of the 20th Century.
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on April 1, 2001
I really wanted to like this CD. Unfortunately, as vibrant and dynamic of a performer as I suspect Stefon is, this CD does not warrant a glowing review. The impression I get every time I listen to this CD is that the performer is hidden behind a curtain. The dynamics and soundstage of the recording are just muffled enough to detract from the recording's energy, rendering it somewhat opaque. Poor Stefon, he has suffered the curse of the current incarnation of his label, Blue Note. I always hesitate to purchase Blue Note recordings: they just do not maintain the same level of sonic quality that a Mapleshade or Verve does. (A great example of this is Chucho Valdes' recent live recording at the Village Vanguard. Play that CD on a good stereo and you'll left scratching head and wondering if the folks at Blue Note are deaf; the recording's mixing is very poorly done.) I only purchased this CD as an introduction to Stefon, before seeing him perform live in 2 weeks. It will be interesting to see how much of Stefon's abilities this CD actually captures.
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on April 26, 2000
Yes, I enjoyed this a lot more than Cloud of Red Dust too. His playing is maturing and will be someone to really watch for. Nice arrangements and variety. Trio version of No Greater Love is great and love the little interludes.
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on December 24, 2001
This recording has some great moments -- and they are all about Stefon Harris. This guy is a virtuoso, and his musical ideas seem to be created on the spot -- completely fresh. The only thing that detracts from this recording are the horns -- the infamous Greg Osby who dislikes melodies of all kinds, always playing "out" and distracting from the music. Unfortunately, Gary Thomas and Steve Turre seem to follow his lead. But there is still some fine music on this CD, and it is well worth buying. I am waiting for Stefon to really find his own voice and bust out with a recording all his own. If that ever happens, it will be a must-listen musical event.
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on May 29, 2007
Very easy listening music. Each instrument in the group blended seamlessly throughout, however, each identity still came through.
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on July 3, 2000
I don't normally give CDs 5 stars. I think people who do are hoping the artist comes through Amazon, sees their rating, and sends them an email they can tell their grandchildren about. Not me. If I don't like it, I don't like it. This Cd, however, is strong. Stefon is a smart, accesible composer, and his playing on the vibes is articulate and full of young groove. He writes and plays like a kid who loves Coltrane, but was raised on a little bit of R&B and rap. A good CD for first-time listeners of jazz, but still very much in the old school tradition.
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on October 9, 2000
This was one beautiful CD! I now realize with wet eyes (tears of joy) that life and music really does go on and on... Stefon reminds me of all of the vibe artists of olden times gone and still with us! I loved this CD as it was perfect for chillin' at a cookout or with your lady! I can only say that this CD brings back Mellow Madness or Quiet Storm classic to this whole CD.... A must for any Jazz Afficianado!
ed saunders Nashville, TN
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