- Andrew James
- Friday & Saturday, Jan. 17 & 18, 6:30 & 9 p.m., 1512 Curtis St., Denver, $15 and up, 303-839-5100, dazzledenver.com
Adopting the name of an abolitionist woman who was born into slavery is not something to be done lightly, but the avant-funk supergroup Harriet Tubman have never been known to back away from a challenge. Guitarist and singer Brandon Ross, electric bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer J.T. Lewis have a long history of tearing down barriers between experimental funk, free jazz, underground hip-hop, gutbucket blues and hardcore punk.
As evidence, consider the insanely eclectic range of artists with whom they’ve collaborated, either individually or collectively, over the course of their careers. There’s Dead Prez and Defunkt, Lou Reed and Living Colour, Caetano Veloso, Meshell Ndegeocello, Cassandra Wilson, the Rollins Band, Herbie Hancock, Henry Threadgill, Sting, Arrested Development — and that’s just the short list. Since their formation in 1998, the New York-based power trio has earned enthusiastic endorsements from a no less diverse array of media outlets.
NPR hailed their work as “black music at its best,” while the Village Voice called them “an irresistible force of truth, beauty, and electric improvisation.” Meanwhile, the trio’s 2018 album The Terror End of Beauty impressed critics at opposite ends of the jazz spectrum, with Downbeat calling it “seismically intense” while British avant-garde magazine The Wire found them to be “as danceable as they are deranged, as physical as they are cerebral, as fired by the past as they are committed to finding a future.” In other words, Harriet Tubman continue to create music that’s ahead of their time, and that few other artists are likely to catch up to.