Working with Solange Knowles
Solange at The Guggenheim

Solange at The Guggenheim

So for those that don't know, my younger brother Bryndon (aka Starchild) is the music director for Solange. For years I've been wanting to collaborate in some way and finally some opportunities came through. A few months back I performed with Solange at The Guggenheim Museum. This was a historical moment... we have a black artist and all black band performing a very socially conscious project in the Guggenheim museum. Everyone in attendance had to dress in all white and the entire venue was packed. A jaw dropping visual to say the least. So I helped contract the other 15 black horn players and we performed "Don't Touch My Hair " and "Fubu" with Solange and the band. Solange's closing number was a super emotional piece where she falls out on the ground rolling around screaming and pouring out her soul. Meanwhile, the band is blasting bell tones in concert and the crowd is screaming full out. We got to the upper room (so to speak). Many people in the crowd were crying. I myself had chills and was choked up a bit by the visceral emotion. It was palpable. Easily one of the best moments of my life.

 

Things I took away from Solange's show was how meticulous she was about the look, feel, sound and aesthetic she wanted to create. Solange is very hands on and every moment of the show is choreographed. It was inspiring...

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New Favorite Artists
New Wave R & B

New Wave R & B

I've been listening to a lot of Alternative RnB and Urban RnB lately. I just wanna share what's been on my playlist...

Nick Hakim (amazing singer -songwriter from Maryland), Masego, Xavier Omar, H.E.R, Nao and Daniel Caesar. Have to say Daniel Caesar is incredible... I want to work with this man. That's gotta happen. Check out my favorite songs from these artists...

 

Playlist:

Nick Hakim - Needy Bees

Masego - Girls That Dance

Xavier Omar - Blind Man

Daniel Caeser - Blessed

H.E.R. - Focus

Nao - Bad Blood

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Anderson .Paak the Dopest Artist Out Now?
Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak

To those of you that don’t have Anderson .Paak’s album “Malibu” do yourself a favor now and get it!

While Anderson .Paak has been out for a while and grinding on the music scene for the past I don’t know how long, this album “Malibu” was his real introduction to the world. And what an introduction! He sings, raps, and plays drums all at once. Literally one of the most amazing acts I’ve ever seen live because he does all 3 on such a high level and with so much energy. Seeing this type of artistry that incorporates so many styles into one is so amazing to see. And even more amazing is to how it’s received by the masses. It’s inspiring to see these true ARTISTS make great art and it still be accessible by the masses. It just shows me that people are thirsty for good music and this excites me about the future. There is a wave happening in the music scene and across the world where more artists with talent and ability are getting more shine and the appetite for the masses is growing. The future is bright!

Thanksgiving – A Family Affair

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite time of year; the weather is perfect, the food is amazing, it’s my baby brother’s birthday and most importantly I get to go home and spend time with my family. (It’s pretty much the dopest time of year!) Like from music, family has been a constant in my life and a very important aspect of my life. For various reasons, our family has had to move numerous times and relocating throughout my childhood was very difficult. It had a profound affect on me. So music and my family became the only things I could really count on. For this reason, every year, no matter how busy my brothers and I get, we always make an effort to all be together a few times a year. Also getting out of NYC, even for just a little bit, is the most refreshing thing ever lol

Black American Music and Soul Music
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I’m not sure who first coined this term but I do remember Nicholas Payton using it a lot a few years back to describe Jazz. I don’t intend to go back down that rabbit hole with this post, but rather to better define how I would describe my music. I grew up on soul music and particularly a lot of Motown artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Temptations and Smokey Robinson. This had a profound affect on the music that I gravitate to. Even after studying jazz for a number of years I find myself always gravitating back to my roots (but informed by jazz). The music that I like to create is influenced by the soul music I grew up on as well as the Jazz that I’ve studied and been immersed in while in NYC. Both Jazz and R&B/Soul are art forms that have come out of the African American traditions. When it comes to trying to classify the music that I make, the best term I can come up with is Black American Music or plainly just Soul. If it comes from the Soul and sounds like Soul and feels like Soul then lets just call it what it is… Soul Music.

The Concept behind "Somewhere in Between"
Somewhere in Between

Somewhere in Between

The concept behind this album is Love. I know that sounds cliche, but before jumping to conclusions, just know that this album is not the typical happy-go-lucky love story. This album is about my two, sometimes conflicting, loves: the life-long love I have for music and the love for my girlfriend of 3 years. It’s also about the struggles I have had trying to find the balance between the two. This battle to find balance between both relationships has played a pivotal role in making me who I am and my musical evolution. This album will feature both my saxophone as well as my vocal debut. I've decided to name this project “Somewhere in Between” because I so often times find myself caught in between my two loves and similarly between my two favorite styles of music, Jazz and RnB. We have to follow our own hearts and clear our own paths in life. We can't live someone else's expectation of how we should live. This album is about trusting your gut and seeing it through.

Serious face... Captured by Sarah Escarraz

Serious face... Captured by Sarah Escarraz

Thoughts on Frank Ocean’s album ‘Blonde’
Frank Ocean // Blonde

Frank Ocean // Blonde

This Frank Ocean album couldn’t have come at a more perfect time! He released a visual project exclusively on Apple Music and then within 24hours he released a 17 track full length LP entitled Blonde. Did it live up to all the hype you wonder? Well in many ways it did and in some ways it didn’t. This depends on what you expected from Frank. If you expected an album full of club bangers or catchy radio hits like his last project Channel Orange, (which had hits such “Thinking Bout You” ”Super Rich Kids” and “Sweet Life”) then you were probably quite disappointed with Blond. However, if you are like me and expected another piece of art that told a story, filled with simile and metaphor from beginning to end then this was the PERFECT album. In a lot of ways I think this album was exactly what the world needed. Firstly, I love that Frank puts his emotionality first in his music. Second, I think its amazing how well refined his songwriting is. His songs are often metaphorical and tackle multiple topics at once, yet he still is straight to the point in some instances. Lastly, I love how Frank seemed to refuse to go for the low hanging fruit rhythmically. What I mean by that, is that he seemed to avoid falling into the clich’s of 2016 such as trap beats, Drake-like phrasing and melodies confined to 3 or 4 notes. He showcases his range so well yet still makes the focus about the stories and not the notes or grooves. I think this world needs more storytellers like Frank Ocean. I aspire to be like that in music’s #GOALS

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The Value of Transcriptions

I”ve recently started a weekly series called Transcription Tuesdays and it is aimed to uphold tradition in this coming musical age of anything goes. Now don’t get me wrong I think it’s important make the music that you want to make BUT I think it’s at least important to be informed as much as possible about the history of the music you”re making. For that reason, I always strive to transcribe daily whether it is something as short as a lick or as long as a full album. This keeps my ears sharp, allows me to get more grounded in the music and also allow me to grow musically.

A little background on me and my start at transcribing!

I got my first private saxophone teacher pretty late in the game. I was 15 years old and my teachers Morgan Russell and Paul Carr always stressed the importance of studying the Omnibook (a collection of Charlie Parker solos written out) as well as the importance of listening/copying artists that I liked. This was always a major component of my lessons. Paul Carr would assign me a Cannonball Adderley solo (like “Minority”) to have written out and memorized for next week. This type of fast paced instruction pushed me to grow very quickly. In a couple years, I had gone fom a novice to playing in the All County, All State Bands and even national groups such The Grammy Band, Vail Jazz All Stars and YoungArts Fellows. I honestly believe this rapid development came not from mere running scales and arpeggios but from learning hundreds of solos and listening non-stop. I learned thousands of solos by ear during that time. I would sing them, play along with them on piano, and of course learn them on saxophone. When learning any language you have to emulate those that do it well and Jazz is no different. So to anyone reading this wondering how do I get better? Or feeling like they”ve hit a plateau. Trust me, there’s more to do and more to learn. Keep transcribing! There’s always someone better than you out there’s transcribe them! LOL