Thanks Be To Keyon Harrold & All The Mugicians of the World

Since the tick-over of the calendar year is when people stop to reflect on the year gone and the one ahead, it seems like a good time to talk about Keyon Harrold’s album The Mugician: undoubtedly one of the greatest music offerings of 2017 with timely, important messages to take forward into 2018 and beyond.

Keyon Harrold - The Mugician

The Mugician (2017)

The album’s 12 eclectic tracks are the fruits of years of labour by the trumpeter, vocalist, composer and producer who’s spent decades creating music with the creme de la creme of contemporary jazz, hip hop and soul artists, touring with Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour and more recently playing trumpet for the Miles Davis character in the Don Cheadle film Miles Ahead.

The Mugician is but one of Keyon Harrold’s countless musical accomplishments. But this one he himself has sown, nurtured and led to its fruition – with contributions from a long list of equally-superb contemporary musicians and vocalists who delivered, in their own respective projects, some of the other great music offerings of 2017 – and probably will this coming year too. Georgia Anne Muldrow, Robert Glasper, Gary Clark Jr, Pharoahe Monch, Bilal, Josh David Barrett, Terrace Martin, Marcus Strickland, Chris “Daddy” Dave, Pino Palladino, Jermaine Holmes, Andrea Pizziconi, Brandon Owens and Big K.R.I.T. are amongst them.

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On The Mugician Keyon Harrold and those artists deliver musical and lyrical themes that are a necessary reflection on,  and questioning of, the unjust and seemingly-insane times in which we live. Songs like ‘Broken News’ and ‘Circus Show’ highlight last year’s U.S. news headlines about the plight of refugees, climate change, inadequate health care, police violence and poverty – and ask the question everyone around the world is or should be asking: “What the hell’s goin’ on?”. ‘When Will It Stop?’ is another fundamental question asked in reference to “sexism, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, homelessness, classism and the granddaddy of them all: racism”. ‘MB Lament’ also, is a beautiful instrumental ode to Michael Brown, one of the many African-American victims of unjustified police shootings in recent years.

Thankfully there are artists like Keyon Harrold and his collaborators bringing attention to these issues through music’s wide reach; and doing so in a way that conveys the necessary feeling of urgency.

Keyon Harrold - The Mugician

Thankfully also and equally important, is that the rest of the songs on The Mugician deliver strong messages of love and hope. And when reflecting on both the past and future years, it’s clear that we all need lots more love and hope. Just like we all desperately need the healing power of music and the “mugicians” making it – something the album’s title track is a beautiful reminder of.

Reflecting on matters beyond the album’s themes, on music more generally, this Keyon Harrold creation is a refreshing reminder of other things: that there are still musicians in the world today continuously working hard at their craft no matter how long they’ve been doing it for; that fresh, innovative, original sounding music can still be created; that it’s a beautiful thing to hold and hear a body of art in the form of an album; that artists don’t need to fit their music inside any one genre box. It’s ok to incorporate elements of jazz, hip hop, classical, R&B, reggae and Afro Beat like Keyon Harrold has on The Mugician, as long as it’s composed well, played well and makes the listener feel; and, that it’s a rare and delightful thing to see a trumpeter take the lead in directing, composing and producing music projects with the voice of the trumpet as an integral focus of the music.

Finally and fundamentally, this album reminds us that in spite of and because of the challenging, unjust world humans have created, music (and love too) are the greatest and most-needed healing forces.

Listen here to 2 tracks from the The Mugician, remembering these are mere super-compressed mp3 versions. If you like what you hear you know what to do: support Keyon Harrold and his collaborators working their healing magic on us, by buying  the album on sweet vinyl, cd, or digitally if you must.Keyon Harrold - The Mugician

Wayfaring Traveler by Keyon Harrold featuring Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jermaine Holmes and Robert Glasper – The Mugician

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Circus Show by Keyon Harrold featuring Gary Clark Jr – The Mugician

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Catch Keyon Harrold performing live wherever you can. The experience of hearing him play the trumpet and where he’s guaranteed to surround himself on stage with the highest calibre of musicians, is truly sublime.  You can check out videos of Keyon Harrold performing live in New York and Melbourne, and an interview with him here.

Keyon Harrold live concert 2016

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H Is For Hip Hop And Its Queens

H in the A to Z of fusion goes to Hip Hop music – leaving aside here the other core elements that make up hip hop culture.

Hip Hop earns its place because its creation definitely involves the refined art of fusion. From DJs mixing records they spin to studio producers/beat makers sampling, chopping, looping, sequencing, recording and mixing-  the beats, sounds and grooves that make up hip hop music are found and blended together from a broad range of worldwide music sources including funk, soul, rhythm and blues, disco, jazz, rock, heavy metal, reggae, salsa, cumbia, soca, pop and well, any other genre you choose really.

The evolution of hip hop music is long and involved. Its characters and contributors are many. Its history fills pages you can find elsewhere. Sufficed to say here its original roots are found in Africa and since its formation in New York in the 70’s the hip hop phenomena has spread far and wide throughout the world. Erykah Badu perfectly describes its contemporary influence in ‘The Healer’ when she sings “It’s bigger than religion, hip hop. It’s bigger than my nigga, hip hop. It’s bigger than the government”.  And thankfully so.

“The Healer” by Erykah Badu – New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)

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It’s the hip hop Kings of the world who’ve generally been the most heard and celebrated. Check out “essential hip hop” albums to find most are compilations of tracks by male artists. But of course there are female artists all over the world creating hip hop music whether they be DJ’s, MCs, beat makers or producers. Sampled below are songs featuring just a handful of those many hip hop Queens – some widely known and celebrated, others less so.

The usual warning applies: versions you find here are just dirty, compressed mp3s. Get the real deal on hard copy from your local music store, in their sweetest of forms on vinyl.

Erykah Badu (U.S.A)

Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground

“Love Of My Life Worldwide” featuring Queen Latifah, Angie Stone & Bahamadia – Worldwide Underground

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Fugees (inc. Ms Lauryn Hill) (U.S.A)

Fugees - Blunted On Reality

“Some Seek Stardom” – Blunted on Reality

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ChocQuibTown (Colombia)

ChocQuibTown - Somos Pacifico

“Somos Pacifico” – Somos Pacifico

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Georgia Anne Muldrow (U.S.A)

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

“Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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Ladi6 (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Ladi6 - Time Is Not Much

“Give Me The Light” – Time Is Not Much

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Nneka (Nigeria/Germany)

Nneka - No Longer At Ease

“Halfcast” – No Longer At Ease 

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Telmary (Cuba)

Telmary - A Diario

“Ando” – A Diario

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Yep, blessed are we for the birth of hip hop music and its ongoing fusionary evolution since by artists all over the world.  Thankful are we for both its Queens and its Kings.

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Miles Davis And Robert Glasper – Everything’s Beautiful

You’d be forgiven for thinking a Miles Davis and Robert Glasper album would include a whole lot of horn and piano playing by those two artists. But, with Everything’s Beautiful, you’d be wrong. And you’re all the better for it.

Miles Davis and Robert Glasper - Everything's Beautiful

Everything’s Beautiful (2016)

Showcasing their skills on trumpet and piano wasn’t the task Robert Glasper gave himself as producer. Nor was it his vision to honour the broad-ranging creative genius of Miles Davis by only creating straight remixes of beloved Miles Davis songs or limiting that genius to his trumpet chops. Because Miles Davis was so much more than an incredible trumpet player (just like Robert Glasper is so much more than a beautiful piano player).

He was consistently an innovator; an experimentalist; a band leader who inspired, pushed and brought out the best in his musical collaborators via both blunt and subtle directions; an artist who was open to everything and revelled in the freedom of creating new sounds beyond expectation boxes and reflective of the particular time in which they were made.

It’s in that spirit that Everything’s Beautiful, through it’s sparse sampling of Miles on trumpet, Miles clapping and Miles’ talking to musicians in recording sessions (the most special of the album’s insights into his artistry), brilliantly reflects the many sides of his creative genius via the subtle.

It’s also in that spirit that Robert Glasper called upon some of today’s most talented innovators in the soul, jazz and hip hop spheres. That he gave them the freedom to take the inspirational sounds of Miles to create new musical magic representing the world in 2016 – according to and expressed by them individually as artists. Just as Miles would have wanted it.

Those feature artists include Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, BilalGeorgia Anne Muldrow, Hiatus Kaiyote, Phonte, Laura Mvula, Derrick Hodge, Illa JLedisi, 9th Wonder and KING plus many other musicians and producers to discover by getting your hands on the physical album.

Erykah Badu live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu

The combined creativity of those artists, and the end result facilitated by Robert Glasper, is a super-dreamy sonic landscape of the feel-right kind.

Amongst its many sonic pleasures is taking an ethereal underwater journey with Hiatus Kaiyote on their reinterpretation of Miles’ 1970 recording of “Little Church”. Another is hearing the heavenly voice of Bilal singing a much-needed message of hope beyond racial oppression and poverty in “Ghetto Walkin” . So too is Laura Mvula’s hypnotic vocal command to “listen in a silent way”. Then there’s those sublime moments after Erykah Badu’s bossa nova morphs into a lullaby of distinctively-Erykah “oo-ee-oo”s in “Maiysha (So Long)”. Or, taking a break from the dreamy for a funkier and fierier vibe with Ledisi’s and Miles Davis’s voices on “I’m Leaving You”. And last but not least of the album’s pleasures is hearing the instantly-recognisable sounds of Stevie Wonder on harmonica in the album’s closing track “Right On Brotha”.

Here you have a teeny, mp3-compressed taste of Everything’s Beautiful’s other sonic delights. In “Talking Shit” you’ll hear Miles embracing new technologies of the time (as always) and encouraging Joe Chambers to do the same. Also describing the sound of hip hop long before hip hop became “hip hop”. “Milestones (Remix)” features the vocals and production of prolific beat-maker Georgia Anne Muldrow and one of the album’s only two piano solos by Robert Glasper. It’s the one that makes me feel the most.

Miles Davis and Robert Glasper - Everything's Beautiful

Everything’s Beautiful (2016)

“Talking Shit” – Everything’s Beautiful

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“Milestones” Remix featuring Georgia Anne Muldrow – Everything’s Beautiful

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To enjoy the full, uncompressed sounds of those songs – as well as Everything’s Beautiful nine other awesome tracks; to find out the names of all the artists who contributed to creating this album and read Robert Glasper’s words about their involvement, buy a hard-copy for your Beloved-Forever-After Collection.

While you’re at your local independent record store doing so, be sure to find Robert Glasper’s other albums too. If you’re not familiar with them, check out samples from a few here.

Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio 2

Black Radio 2 (2013)

“Persevere” featuring Snoop Dogg, Lupe Fiasco and Luke James – Robert Glasper Experiment

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Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio

Black Radio (2012)

“Afro Blue” featuring Erykah Badu – Robert Glasper Experiment

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Robert Glasper - Double Booked

Double Booked (2009)

“Festival” – Robert Glasper

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Also keep your ear to the ground for the release of Herbie Hancock’s new album which Robert Glasper is co-producing.

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Georgia Anne Muldrow Accentuating The Positive

Georgia Anne Muldrow’s most recent album A Thoughtiverse Unmarred, is a fabulous and timely reminder of how very much the world (both humans and the precious environment we live in) benefits from having positive musical messengers like her within it.

During its twelve tracks of hip hop beats and rhymes soaked in funk and soul, Georgia Anne Muldrow’s conscious words unfailingly accentuate the positive over the negative. They encourage love and compassion over hate – call for equality and fairness over injustice and discrimination – promote diversity and spirituality over the monocultural and materialistic – advocate for peace over conflict – and champion self determination, hope and triumph over one’s disadvantaged social, political and economic circumstances.

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

A Thoughtiverse Unmarred (2015)

The bonus is that those positive lyrical messages from Georgia Anne Muldrow and featured rappers Declaime (aka Dudley Perkins) and MP Is Free come with music wholly produced by Chris Keys, all together likely to make you feel good and want to dance with them.

Check out two sample tracks from A Thoughtiverse Unmarred here, remembering they’re just compressed mp3 versions of the real deal. You can buy the full album in all its goodness (including finding a copy on sweet vinyl) to cherish forever-after amongst the other gems of your music collection.

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Child Shot” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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