Freedom music

Musicians join forces with jazz greats to create “music of freedom”

A pair of hip-hop legends have released a new album that mixes old classics with topical sounds.

“Jazz is dead 001” brings together musicians Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad with some of their jazz heroes. The album features a host of big names from vibraphonist and producer Roy Ayers to saxophonist Gary Bartz.

Over the past year, Younge and Muhammad have recorded the album of new songs using the original instruments and analog recording techniques used in the ’60s and’ 70s. Younge says the project was inspired by conversations. on the current expression, “jazz is dead”.

“I guess the biggest question when you hear ‘jazz is dead’ is who can say what matters? ” he says. “And you know, for us, we look at him as those people who protect art as pioneers in its progression. And that’s what we’re trying to do with “Jazz Is Dead”. “

Muhammad says the album captures “the relentlessness to exist and the ability to vibrate and unite” in these uncertain times.

“We’re more connected, I think now, than at any time at least in the past 100 years,” he says. “But it’s not a connection that has always, I think, had real depth and real consideration. And so we now really consider each other.

Interview highlights

Work with Roy Ayers

Younge: “Well, for people like me and Ali, music means more to us than it should to the average person. So, I mean, when you’re in the presence of someone like that, you know, it’s like being in the presence of a god here on Earth. He has done so much for music. He was so important in our lives with music that just being in the studio with him, not even working, just being in the studio with him was just magical.

On the source of their inspiration for the album

Muhammad:My introduction to jazz was from my grandmother, and she was a big fan of Duke Ellington, a big fan of Ella Fitzgerald, and I didn’t want any of that … I think because I was born in 1970 and the main source of my, I guess, my time was not Duke Ellington. However, when you hear bands like Earth, Wind & Fire or even Kool & The Gang that merged jazz into what has been called R&B, it kind of opens up the palette and the love story has developed. . And so the exploration went beyond just sampling to picking up instruments for me to really get my own idea of ​​what these greats were doing. It’s just a nonstop trip. So here we are with Jazz Is Dead. And this compilation just based on that, continued to be curious about the process, to be curious about the communication of music and what it means to make freedom music.

Younge: “Let’s go back. What is the first true form of musical art recognized in America? It’s jazz. OKAY. So what is the ideology of this? Well, that’s the voice of black America. Jazz embraced the struggles of black America and we used our instruments as voices. So when you fixate on the fundamental tone, adding harmonics is what makes that fundamental tone different. So we use the same instruments, but we add our own harmonics. We add our struggles. We add our prospects that have been blacklisted around the world. And that was our way of speaking at last. Do you see what I’m saying? It is therefore the foundation of jazz. And it really is something human. You don’t have to be black, you know? It’s a human thing. But it came from this black struggle.

On the song “Conexão” with João Donato, the top bossa nova

Younge: “Well, ‘Jazz Is Dead’ isn’t just a label, it’s a series of concert lineup that we’ve had. So we do these gigs with jazz legends and emerging jazz artists, and we bring them to Los Angeles, do these crazy gigs, and at the same time, unbeknownst to the people who go to these gigs, we’re recording albums with these people. So with João, we brought him here from Brazil, and part of bringing him here was not just making him play his beautiful music for people, but saying, ‘Hey let’s record a full album with you on an analog tape like you did in the 60s and 70s, and use those original instruments as well. And let’s continue those conversations you started back then, but make them more modern. “

On how this music sheds light on these uncertain times

Muhammad: “I think when musicians walk into a room together there is a lot of consideration. And we certainly hope that releasing the album ‘Jazz Is Dead 001’ right now will give people some comfort and that they will have a moment to think, wonder, you know, what’s next, maybe lose. head for a moment and then find yourself. And for me, as one of the really good examples of that is the song “Distant Mode” with Gary Bartz. For me that really highlights where we are right now, and that’s just my take, someone else may have a whole different experience, but this song for me and just the title, it’s like, what’s going on? This is how it starts. I listen to this song. It’s a question. It’s like, what? What the hell is happening? You know, and then there’s an answer. And the answer may seem sweet. It may seem uncertain. And Gary is just playing, it gets you through all these emotions.


Lynn Menegon produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.


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