Stefon Harris with Imani Winds: Flynn Center,, Burlington VT, 2/5/10

When Stefon Harris joined Imani Wnds on the Mainstage of the Flynn February 5, he helped crystallize the intensity of their playing and  at the same time, elicited a greater level of improvisation from their playing.The effect of the collaboration might well have been even greater had Harris’ own band been present, but even so, the performance was impressive.

The sensation of rapture grew as the evening went on. Imani Winds’ own comparatively brief performance radiated a cerebral and formal approach that still contained a slightly earthy undercurrent. "Homage to Duke" (Ellington) wasn’t the only number where a joyous New Orleans abandon crept into their playing.

That, however,  was nothing compared to the quintet’s collaboration with Harris on his original composition "Anatomy of a Box. " This extended piece, comprising the whole of the second set found the composer doing lightning rounds on vibes and marimba while Imani engaged in a near-furious excursion into arch melody as well as sweet songlines. Stefon Harris didn’t have to be front and center to capture the fancy of the somewhat sparse audience in the theatre: he commanded attention through the disciplined creativity that inspired all the other musicians who were playing with him during the approximately forty minutes they were all on stage together.

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