Stefon Harris and Blackout

In the realm of smooth jazz, you have people like George Benson and Herbie Hancock, phenomenal musicians who at some point decided to play way below their level. Then you’ve got the masses of smooth jazz stars who sound like they couldn’t play anything more interesting even if given the opportunity. And then you have guys like Stefon Harris and Blackout—great players who’ve chosen to bring smooth jazz up to their level. Gone are the brain-dead melodies and soporific stick-tracks. In are sophisticated jazz-infused soloing, creative voicings, virtuosic grooves, and instrumental funk that—like the best fusion music of the ‘70s—wakes your body and soul. Harris, on vibraphone and marimba, is a perfect example of how to be a smart populist in jazz. His playing is technically amazing, cliché-free, and terrifically fun. Another Blackout standout is drummer Terreon Gully, a master of snare thwacks and jagged fills who probably could have swept the recent Animal drumming competition at EMP. With their new disc Urbanus on Concord, this band proves that reaching out to the masses doesn’t mean losing your dignity. All ages. MARK D. FEFER

Tue., Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m., 2009