The spirits of Jimi Hendrix, Ornette Coleman, and George Clinton combust in the fusion furnace of Harriet Tubman, a live powerhouse in New York for two decades.
The band features the guitarist, banjoist, and vocalist Brandon Ross, whom The Paris Review called “a one-man atmosphere factory,” and the drummer J.T. Lewis, an early member of Living Colour who crosses between jazz and pop at will, whether working with Herbie Hancock, Lou Reed, or Whitney Houston. Then there’s the bassist Melvin Gibbs, who started scrambling punk, funk, and jazz in Defunkt in the 1980s while also playing with Ronald Shannon Jackson and John Zorn, and who then spent the 1990s in Rollins Band before joining with Ross and Lewis.
Though the trio remains a tireless highlight wherever it performs—NPR jazz critic Nate Chinen called its Earshot Jazz Festival set the single best concert he saw in 2018—Harriet Tubman also sometimes slows down for just long enough to make a great record or two. The most recent outpouring came in 2017 and 2018, with Araminta and The Terror End of Beauty on Sunnyside. The former, with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, “wades through an electric mire with a sense of rugged determination, finding a kind of balance but resisting equilibrium,” said The New York Times, which also called it “thick with intention and power.” The latter was hailed by The Wire as “a sizzling hot snapshot of a band 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.”