Wynton Marsalis has set the modern standard for tackling multifarious projects, but Stefon Harris cedes nothing when it comes to musical ambition. Now 29, Harris burst onto the scene a few years ago as a dazzling talent on vibes and marimbas, and for his third outing as a leader he has written and arranged a wide-ranging 13-track suite for as many as a dozen musicians. His liner notes lay out a grandiose explanation of his Muse, a personal-astrophysical blend of gravitational and nuclear forces and " funk and love. "
Fortunately, the music speaks for itself. By turns swinging, outside, bluesy, and cerebral, the suite coheres despite a few moments adrift. Among the brightest tracks: " The Velvet Couch, " an appropriately named lounge groove where Harrisís solo ability is revealed unencumbered; the half-concealed Latin soul of " Escape to Quiet Desperation " ; and the meditative " Rebirth. " Sidemen through the dizzying changes include previous collaborators Tarus Mateen on bass, Terreon Gully on drums, and Steve Turre on trombone. Harris isnít done, though; another suite, " The Gardner Meditations, " written while he was resident artist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is in the works.