Stefon Harris & Blackout | Jazz Showcase | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Stefon Harris & Blackout 

When: Thu., Nov. 5, 8 & 10 p.m., Fri., Nov. 6, 8 & 10 p.m., Sat., Nov. 7, 8 & 10 p.m. and Sun., Nov. 8, 4, 8 & 10 p.m. 2009
Price: $20
Urbanus (Concord) is the second album by vibist Stefon Harris's R & B-leaning ensemble Blackout, but it's a better starting place than the group's 2004 debut, Evolution (Blue Note). The first record failed in wedding contemporary soul to high-level improvisation, foundering on safe middle ground just a few steps from smooth jazz. The new one takes more chances, unabashedly embracing uncut funk, hip-hop, and even go-go rhythms, which gird the bright reading of "Gone" from Porgy and Bess, and while the music still has a commercial gloss, beneath the veneer is a limber hybrid. Alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin contributes some romantic, Vocodered vocals, including on the lovely "For You," which he also sang on Robert Glasper's recent Double Booked (Blue Note); the quintet also includes powerhouse drummer Terreon Gully, bassist Luques Curtis, and pianist Sullivan Fortner. —Peter Margasak

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