Photo: Adrien H. Tillmann
Jazz Harpist Edmar Castañeda On How Spirituality, Injury & Love Inspired His New Album 'Family'
While making his new album, 'Family,' a fall put Edmar Castañeda in the hospital—and then the pandemic hit. But recuperating with his wife and kids gave the album its heart and soul
"My Favorite Things" is one of the most elastic songs in the American canon. You can sing it straight, as in The Sound of Music, twist it into a new form like Ariana Grande or blow it to high heaven like John Coltrane. When the COVID-19 pandemic made the world housebound, the song seemed to materialize in a whole new way in Andrea Tierra's house.
"My girl was practicing that [song in Spanish] last year for her music class," she tells GRAMMY.com. "I had all that there ready." But this new version of the song wouldn't just be in Spanish. Such communion with household objects that had special meaning, she thought, would be perfect for her husband, Colombian jazz harpist Edmar Castañeda's, album Family. Aiming to uphold the integrity of the original lyrics, she translated them as cleanly as possible into Spanish. Then, as the world went into lockdown and she spent more time at home, she switched out the objects in the lyrics to reflect her favorite things—and her family's.
This version of "My Favorite Things" closes out Family, which arrives May 21. Featuring Tierra on vocals, Shlomi Cohen on soprano sax and Rodrigo Villalon on drums, Family is a percolating new high watermark for the jazz harpist. The album mixes originals, like "Song for Jaco" and "Acts," with "My Favorite Things" and "Cancion Con Todos," a Latin American standard that nods to the couple's Colombian roots.
GRAMMY.com traveled to Teaneck, New Jersey to speak with Castañeda in his backyard. Eventually, Tierra joined him, and so did their two children, Zamir and Zeudi. It concluded with all of them together, reflecting how Family was a co-creation of the entire Castañeda household. Miraculously, the COVID-19 pandemic and three months out with a broken wrist due to a fall during the album's production didn't derail the creative process. Instead, it imbued it with new emotional dimensions and brought the family closer than ever.
Read on for the full conversation with the Castañeda family as they discuss the place of the harp in jazz, splitting the difference between Colombian and American influences and how all four left their fingerprints on the final product.
Edmar Castañeda. Photo: Adrien H. Tillmann
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Are there many jazz harpists out there?
Edmar: There are not many. I haven't met many jazz [harp] players. I know one, but he's in Switzerland right now. Brandee Younger, but she plays more soul music.
Did you play as a kid?
Edmar: I started when I was 13, in Colombia. Then, I came here when I was 16.
How'd you get exposed to the instrument in the first place?
Edmar: The harp is a traditional instrument from my country. In one part of Colombia, the way we play the harp is very [much] folk music. When I was seven years old, my mom took me [to this place] and that's when I met a harpist for the first time. I fell in love with this instrument.
And then, when I was 16, I came to this country, to New York. I [got into] jazz for the first time. I just fell in love with that music.
I generally think of the harp as being a classical instrument… Oh, hey! How's it going?
Andrea [arriving]: Nice to meet you.
Edmar: ... Yeah, it's one of the oldest instruments on Earth.
David plays it in the Bible.
Edmar: All the instruments come from the harp, you know? The piano comes from the harp. It was a very popular instrument a long time ago.
How did you realize jazz and the harp could intersect? Were you into people like Dorothy Ashby?
Edmar: Yeah, I think Dorothy's the only one who really plays jazz, for me. Alice [Coltrane] was mostly a pianist and singer, right?
Yeah, she was a bebop piano player. The harp shows up on the more glissando, open-ended material.
Edmar: It was more experimental music with jazz. But the harp is not a lead instrument like [with] Dorothy.
How did you make that connection, then?
Edmar: I started with folk music. Then, I met jazz with the trumpet—I used to play the trumpet. In high school, they put me [on the] trumpet—no harp for anything. That's when I learned about Duke Ellington, Miles—all these crazy-amazing musicians. I started getting inspired by that and tried to imitate it a little bit on the harp.
Edmar Castañeda. Photo: Adrien H. Tillmann
Andrea, what can you tell me about your musical background?
Andrea: I was born in Medellín and my dad is an improviser. An improviser of rhymes. He's a poet. So, I was raised [with] that kind of influence. That's where I started to sing. My siblings are musicians, too.
Edmar: We both come from folk music
Andrea: A folk music background.
What does Colombian folk music sound like?
Edmar: There's many, man. We have 1,000 rhythms.
I figured. Boiling it down to one sound would be like reducing American music to one genre.
Edmar: From my part, it's the harp and it's very flamenco and [mimics chugging train beat]. For her, it's more guitars.
Where do Colombian folk and Colombian jazz meet?
Edmar: For me, I never heard jazz in Colombia. There's great Colombian jazz, too, but when I was there, I was more into folk music.
Do you still play the horn?
Edmar: Nah, nah.
Andrea: He teaches our son!
Does he have some chops?
Edmar: Yeah, yeah! He's 10! He's getting there! He likes Clifford Brown and all these great jazz players. For [Andrea], we use more of her background in lyrics. She writes amazing lyrics and we mix them with folk and jazz and world music. On this album, we did a version of "My Favorite Things."
Andrea: We did it in Spanish. It's very, very attached to the real version. I did the translation the best I could. We added a pajarillo, which is …
Edmar: Traditional verses.
Andrea: Traditional-verses music. We mixed a lot of different things in the song.
Edmar: It's very flamenco.
Was it difficult to capture the cadence of the original in a Spanish translation?
Andrea: Yeah. Actually, my girl was practicing that last year for her music class. I had all that there ready. For me, the most important thing was to be so true to the song itself. To the lyrics. It's set the way it is, I fixed it the best I could in Spanish and then added my favorite things so the song would be respected.
It's one of those songs you can keep interpreting and interpreting and it never loses its elasticity.
Edmar: But we couldn't find any in Spanish!
Andrea: It also became so powerful because, during this pandemic, we've learned to live with our favorite things. Those little things you have at home are the little things that make you happy.
Communion with objects.
Andrea: Yeah. I think it's a great song for this time.
Where does Family sit in your body of work? How many albums had you done prior?
Edmar: Sixth. This is my seventh.
How did your recording career get started?
Edmar: My first album was maybe 15 or 20 years ago. It was different concepts with [clarinetist] Paquito D'Rivera, [drummer] Ari Hoenig and [flugelhornist] Mike Rodriguez. And then I did this same group with a trombone—Marshall Gilkes. Then, I did a duo album with Gonzalo Rubalcaba. He's one of the top piano players from Cuba.
Then, I did the World Ensemble, which was a nine-piece band, live at the Jazz Standard. Then, I did a live album with Hiromi, a Japanese pianist [called] Live in Montreal. Then, a duo with [harmonica player] Grégoire Maret. Then, we came to this Family album.
Edmar Castañeda. Photo: Alexandre Pinto
What was your artistic intent with Family as opposed to past albums? What did you want to do differently this time?
Edmar: This album I recorded before the pandemic—last November. I had an accident [in which I hurt] my hand. I fell from the attic and broke [points to wrist] this bone and this bone.
That must have been a nightmare.
Andrea: We had just recorded the first part of the album and everything. We had to take him to the ER, surgery, screws, everything.
Do you have your strength in that hand?
Edmar: Yeah, yeah.
Andrea. Robocop. That's what we call him. [all laugh]
Edmar: I got a second chance to play this instrument again. My fate was to believe that it was going to be OK. Then, when I was getting better, I said, "OK, I'm going to start playing and working again," and this pandemic kicked in really bad.
The whole year, I said, "I'm going to finish the album," and I pulled all the energy from what we learn as a family here. I record the harps here and I have a studio here, too, so I recorded everything here with that feeling of gratitude for life. To have my family, to be strong, to believe.
Andrea: He was so strong during the whole thing. All the time, he was smiling like this [makes blissful expression]. I cried more than him! When I sent the first picture when he got out of the hospital, my friends were like, "Is he coming out of a spa?"
How long were you out of commission?
Edmar: It was supposed to be eight months, but in two or three months, I was ready.
The tune that is titled "Family"—I was touring the whole year before with Hiromi and it was really difficult for me to be away from my family. I composed this tune [throughout] the whole year, little by little, everywhere, and when I came home one day, I finished it and played it for the kids.
I said, "Look! I've composed this! Do you like it?" And my kids were like [hushed tone] "Wow!" I said, "What would you name this tune?" My son said, "Family." They gave it a name. Everything was related to family.
What can you tell about the writing process behind Family?
Edmar: It pretty much is originals. We have, what, two standards? "My Favorite Things" and a beautiful tune from South America. [turns to Andrea] You can explain that more.
Andrea: ["Cancion Con Todos"] is about the power of America coming together. It's like a tour through the very important cities and [countrysides] of America. Calling people to be together, you know? To have all those things that make us better. It's a very old tune from Latin America. It's like a hymn.
Edmar: [As for] the rest, I did a tune inspired by Jaco Pastorius. I composed that before I went on tour with Hiromi. She liked it and wanted to record it, but I wanted to do my version with a trio, [which] I never did before. I did this tune inspired by his playing.
Andrea, can you talk about your vocal contributions to the album?
Andrea: I think it was important to bring that folk story or background to the music Edmar does. For me, the message is very important. Especially that it connects non-Spanish-speaking people to our culture, but also how I connect people from my background to jazz culture. The kind of music to which we're exposed [to].
I think that's my primary contribution. Also, as a woman, it's hard to pursue a career or keep on singing when you have two kids who are home-schooled since day one. They've never been to school. They're home-schooled by us forever.
Trying to keep up with all those things, women often have to divide themselves between those decisions. "Should I pursue my career and my dreams? Should I have kids?" For me, I just want to say, "Come on, you don't have to do that." It's probably harder—you probably have to work a bit more—but I think we are capable of doing both.
[Zamir approaches the table]
Come join us!
Edmar: I'll give you more of the tunes. There's one titled "Battle of Faith." That's the opening of the CD. It's just believing. Never giving up. There's another one called "Acts." It's inspired by one of the disciples in the Bible. I love his passion for the faith of Christ.
Paul's a genius.
Edmar: [blown-away look] The determination to believe it no matter what. He's a warrior, you know?
[Zeudi approaches the table]
Zeudi, what instruments do you play?
Zeudi: I play harp, ukulele and piano and I sing.
What about you, Zamir? I hear you're ripping on the trumpet. Like Clifford Brown.
Zamir: I don't really listen to him. I like more Miles.
What's your favorite Miles?
Zamir: "Tune Up."
The whole family's here!
Edmar: It's a family album.
Photo: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images
5 Less-Discussed Miles Davis Albums You Need To Know, From 'Water Babies' To 'We Want Miles'
Despite not being mentioned nearly as much as 'Kind of Blue' or 'Bitches Brew,' these five albums are highly recommended — some for Davis neophytes, some for diehards.
Joe Farnsworth couldn’t believe what he was watching. The leading straight-ahead drummer was sitting with the revered tenor saxophonist George Coleman, and a Miles Davis documentary happened to come on TV.
“This documentary went from Coltrane straight to Sam Rivers,” Farnsworth told LondonJazz News in 2023 — referring to the tenormen the eight-time GRAMMY winner and 32-time nominee employed in his so-called First and Second Great Quintets, respectively.
“What happened to ‘Four’ & More? What happened to My Funny Valentine? What happened to Seven Steps to Heaven?” Farnsworth remembered wondering. “Not a mention, man.”
Granted, Coleman’s tenure represented a transitional period for Davis’s group; his choice of tenorist would solidify in 1964 with the arrival of the 12-time GRAMMY winner and 23-time nominee Wayne Shorter. With pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams as the rhythm section — 18 GRAMMYs between them — the result was one of jazz’s all-time classic groups.
But Farnsworth’s point is well taken: in the recorded canon, jazz tends to lionize the rulebook-shredders and boundary-shatterers, at the expense of merely excellent work. But there’s not only room for both; in order to exist, the former requires the latter, and vice versa.
And given that Davis is, in many respects, the quintessential jazz musician, this wholly applies to him and his formidable discography — where the capital-P pivotal ones, like Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew, get the majority of the ink.
After you check out Seven Steps to Heaven and the like — and absorb Coleman’s important contributions to Davis’s story — take a spin through five more Davis albums that deserve more attention.
Water Babies (rec. 1967-1968, rel. 1976)
Axiomatically, anything Davis’ Second Great Quintet — and keyboardist Chick Corea and bassist Dave Holland, to boot — laid to tape is worth hearing.
But Water Babies should be of interest to any serious Miles fan because it reveals the connective tissue between Davis’ acoustic and electric eras.
The first three tracks, “Water Babies,” “Capricorn” and “Sweet Pea” — Shorter compositions all — were retrieved from the cutting room floor circa 1968’s Nerfiti. (Tellingly, that turned out to be Davis’ final fully acoustic album.)
Tracks four and five — “Two Faced” and “Dual Mr. Tillman Anthony” — add Corea and Holland to the mix; on electric piano, Corea adds a celestial drift to the proceedings. For reasons both
Miles in the Sky (1968)
Miles Davis and George Benson on record? It happened — lucky us. The 10-time GRAMMY-winning, 25-time nominated guitar genius can be found on two tracks from the 1979 outtakes compendium Circle in the Round, and on “Paraphernalia” from Miles in the Sky.
While Water Babies is something of a dark horse for the heads, Miles in the Sky — also featuring the Second Great Quintet —is a fleet, aerodynamic stunner and one of the most unfairly slept-on entries in his discography.
Outside of the Shorter-penned “Paraphernalia,” Miles in the Sky features two Davis tunes in “Stuff” and “Country Son,” and a Williams composition in “Black Comedy.”
It’s sterling stuff, right at the tipping point for fusion — and its obfuscation says nothing about its quality, but speaks volumes as to the volume of masterpieces in Davis’ discography.
Agharta (1965) and Pangaea (1976)
Two primo dispatches from Davis’ experimental years, capturing two concerts from the same evening in Osaka, Agharta and Pangaea are amoebic, undulating wonders.
Across the nearly 100-minute Agharta and 88-minute Pangaea, Davis and company — including alto and soprano saxophonist Sonny Fortune, and guitarists Reggie Lucas and Pate Cosey — conjure everything we expect from electric Miles.
Abstracted drones, worldbeat textures, Davis’ trumpet funneled through twisted wah-wah: check, check, and check. One critic characterized the music as “ambient yet thrashing,” compared it to “Fela Kuti jamming with Can,” and identified hints of Stockhausen, and nailed it on all three counts.
Fans of thick, heavy, electrified Miles typically reach for Bitches Brew or On the Corner first. But if those don’t completely whet your thirst, there’s a whole lot where that came from.
And given that Davis put down the horn, ravaged by illness, for six years afterward, Agharta and Pangaea represent something of a culmination of Davis as the intrepid deconstructionist.
We Want Miles (1982)
Despite what you may have heard, ‘80s Miles — his final full decade on earth, and the one where he drew heavily from pop sounds and songs — is nothing to sniff at.
From 1981’s The Man with the Horn to 1983’s Star People to 1989’s Aura, Davis produced a number of rough-hewn gems. And despite Davis’ bulldozed health during its recording, the live We Want Miles, recorded in ‘81, is among them.
Despite requiring oxygen between songs and wearing a rubber corset to keep playing, Davis is in fine form.
We Want Miles proves that Miles never lost his ability to produce inspired, inspiring work — no matter what his failing body or, erm, ‘80s textures threw at it.
Davis passed away in 1991, and we’ll never see his like again — so savor everything he gave us, whether illuminated or obscured by shadow.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: John Rogers
10 Albums That Showcase The Deep Connection Between Jazz And Electronic Music: Herbie Hancock, Flying Lotus, Caroline Davis & More
Jazz has long stretched the parameters of harmony, melody and rhythm — and when electronic music flows into it, the possibilities are even more limitless.
A year and change before his 2022 death, the eminent saxophonist Pharoah Sanders released one final dispatch. That album was Promises, a meditative, collaborative album with British electronic musician Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Promises swung open the gates for jazz and electronic music's convergence.. Not only was it an out-of-nowhere critical smash, earning "universal acclaim" as per Metacritic; it acted as an accessible entrypoint for the hipster set and beyond.
As Pitchfork put it, "One of the year's most memorable melodies consists of a seven-note refrain repeated, with slight variation, for more than three quarters of an hour." (They declared Promises the fourth best album of the year; its neighbors included Turnstile; Tyler, the Creator; and Jazmine Sullivan.)
Since then, jazz and electronic music have continued their developments, with or without each other. But Promises struck a resonant chord, especially during the pandemic years; and when Sanders left us at 81, the music felt like his essence lingering in our midst.
Whether you're aware of that crossover favorite or simply curious about this realm, know that the rapprochement between jazz and electronic idioms goes back decades and decades.
Read on for 10 albums that exemplify this genre blend — including two released this very year.
Miles Davis - Live-Evil (1971)
As the 1960s gave away to the '70s, Miles Davis stood at his most extreme pivot point — between post-bop and modal classics and undulating, electric exploits. Straddling the studio and the stage, Live-Evil is a monument to this period of thunderous transformation.
At 100 minutes, the album's a heaving, heady listen — its dense electronic textures courtesy of revered keyboardists Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Joe Zawinul, as well as the combustible electric guitarist John McLaughlin. The swirling, beatless "Nem Un Talvez" is arguably Live-Evil's most demonstrative example of jazz meets electronic.
For the uninitiated as per Davis' heavier, headier work, Live-Evil is something of a Rosetta stone. From here, head backward in the eight-time GRAMMY winner and 32-time nominee's catalog — to In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew or Jack Johnson.
Or, move forward to On the Corner, Get Up With It or Aura. Wherever you move in his later discography, plenty of jazz fans wish they could hear this game-changing music for the first time.
Herbie Hancock - Future Shock (1983)
In the early 1970s, Herbie Hancock delivered a one-two punch of fusion classics — 1973's Head Hunters and 1974's Thrust — to much applause. The ensuing years told a different story.
While the 14-time GRAMMY winner and 34-time nominee's ensuing live albums tended to be well-regarded, his studio work only fitfully caught a break from the critics.
However, in 1983, Hancock struck gold in that regard: the inspired Future Shock wittily and inventively drew from electro-funk and instrumental hip-hop. Especially its single, "Rockit" — shot through with a melodic earworm, imbued with infectious DJ scratches.
Sure, it's of its time — very conspicuously so. But with hip-hop's 50th anniversary right in our rearview, "Rockit" sounds right on time.
Tim Hagans - Animation • Imagination (1999)
If electric Miles is your Miles, spring for trumpeter Tim Hagans' Animation • Imagination for an outside spin on that aesthetic.
The late, great saxophonist Bob Belden plays co-pilot here; he wrote four of its nine originals and produced the album. Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, synthesist Scott Kinsen, bassist David Dyson, and drummer Billy Kilson also underpin these kinetic, exploratory tunes.
The engine of Animation • Imagination is its supple and infectious sense of groove, whether in breakbeat ("Animation/Imagination"), boom bap ("Slo Mo") or any other form.
This makes the drumless moments, like "Love's Lullaby," have an indelible impact; when the drums drop out, inertia propels you forward. And on the electronics-swaddled "Snakes Kin," the delayed-out percussion less drives the music than rattles it like an angry hive.
Kurt Rosenwinkel - Heartcore (2003)
From his language to his phrasing to his liquid sound, Rosenwinkel's impact on the contemporary jazz guitar scene cannot be overstated: on any given evening in the West Village, you can probably find a New Schooler laboriously attempting to channel him.
Rosenwinkel's appeared on more than 150 albums, so where to begin with such a prodigious artist? One gateway is Heartcore, his first immersion into electronic soundscapes as a bandleader.
Throughout, the laser-focused tenor saxophonist Mark Turner is like another half of his sound. On "Our Secret World," his earthiness counter-weighs Rosenwinkel's iridescent textures; on "Blue Line," the pair blend into and timbrally imitate each other.
Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest co-produced Heartcore; it's as unclassifiable as the MC's most intrepid, fusionary works. "This record — it's jazz," Rosenwinkel has said. "And it's much more."
Graham Haynes - Full Circle (2007)
Cornetist, flugelhornist and trumpeter Graham Haynes may be the son of Roy Haynes, who played drums with Bird and Monk and remains one of the final living godfathers of bebop. But if he's ever faced pressure to box himself into his father's aesthetic, he's studiously disregarded it.
Along with saxophone great Steve Coleman, he was instrumental in the M-Base collective, which heralded new modes of creative expression in jazz — a genre tag it tended to reject altogether.
For Haynes, this liberatory spirit led to inspired works like Full Circle. It shows how he moved between electronic and hip-hop spheres with masterly ease, while being beholden to neither. Featuring saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, bassist Shahzad Ismaily, drummer Marcus Gilmore, and other top-flight accompanists, Full Circle is wormholes within wormholes.
Therein, short-circuiting wonders like "1st Quadrant" rub against "Quartet Circle" and "In the Cage of Grouis Bank," which slouch toward ambient, foreboding kosmische.
Craig Taborn - Junk Magic (2004)
Steeped in brutal metal as much as the AACM, the elusive, resplendent pianist Craig Taborn is one of the most cutting-edge practitioners of "creative music." Some of his work resembles jazz, some is uncategorizably far afield.
Strains of electronic music run through Taborn's entire catalog. And his Junk Magic project, which began with his 2004 album of the same name, is a terrific gateway drug to this component of his artistry.
Junk Magic has a haunted toyshop quality; tracks like "Prismatica," "Bodies at Rest and in Motion" and "The Golden Age" thrum with shadowy, esoteric energy.
If these strange sounds resonate with you, 2020's sinewy Compass Confusion — released under the Junk Magic alias — is a logical next step. So is 2019's Golden Valley is Now, an electronics-inflected work of head-spinning propulsion and kineticism.
Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)
Spanning spiritual jazz, devotional music, the avant-garde, and so much more, Alice Coltrane has belatedly gotten her flowers as a musical heavyweight; she and her sainted husband were equal and parallel forces.
Coltrane's grandnephew, Steven Bingley-Ellison — better known as Flying Lotus — inherited her multidimensional purview.
In the late 2000s, the GRAMMY-winning DJ, rapper and producer made waves with envelope-pushing works like Los Angeles; regarding his synthesis of jazz, electronic and hip-hop, 2014's You're Dead marks something of a culmination.
Flying Lotus was in stellar company on You're Dead!, from Kendrick Lamar to Snoop Dogg to Herbie Hancock and beyond; tracks like "Tesla," "Never Catch Me" and "Moment of Hesitation" show that these forms aren't mutually exclusive, but branches of the same tree.
Brad Mehldau - Finding Gabriel (2019)
As per the Big Questions, pianist Brad Mehldau is much like many of us: "I believe in God, but do not identify with any of the monotheistic religions specifically." But this hasn't diluted his searching nature: far from it.
In fact, spirituality has played a primary role in the GRAMMY winner and 13-time nominee's recent work. His 2022 album Jacob's Ladder dealt heavily in Biblical concepts — hence the title — and shot them through with the prog-rock ethos of Yes, Rush and Gentle Giant.
Where Jacob's Ladder is appealingly nerdy and top-heavy, its spiritual successor, 2019's Finding Gabriel, feels rawer and more eye-level, its jagged edges more exposed; Mehldau himself played a dizzying array of instruments, including drums and various synths.
The archetypal imagery is foreboding, as on "The Garden"; the Trump-era commentary is forthright, as on "The Prophet is a Fool." And its sense of harried tension is gorgeously released on the title track.
All this searching and striving required music without guardrails — a marriage of jazz and electronic music, in both styles' boundless reach.
Caroline Davis' Alula - Captivity (2023)
Caroline Davis isn't just an force on the New York scene; she's a consummate conceptualist.
The saxophonist and composer's work spans genres and even media; any given presentation might involve evocative dance, expansive set design, incisive poetry, or flourishing strings. She's spoken of writing music based on tactility and texture, with innovative forms of extended technique.
This perspicuous view has led to a political forthrightness: her Alula project's new album, Captivity, faces down the horrific realities of incarceration and a broken criminal justice system.
Despite the thematic weight, this work of advocacy is never preachy or stilted: it feels teeming and alive. This is a testament not only to jazz's adaptability to strange, squelching electronics, but its matrix of decades-old connections to social justice.
Within these oblong shapes and textures, Davis has a story to tell — one that's life or death.
Jason Moran/BlankFor.ms/Marcus Gilmore - Refract (2023)
At this point, it's self-evident how well these two genres mesh. And pianist Jason Moran and drummer Marcus Gilmore offer another fascinating twist: tape loops.
For a new album, Refract, the pair — who have one GRAMMY and three nominations between them — partnered with the tape loop visionary Tyler Gilmore, a.k.a. BlankFor.ms.
The seed of the project was with BlankFor.ms; producer Sun Chung had broached the idea that he work with leading improvisational minds. In the studio, BlankFor.ms acted on a refractory basis, his loops commenting on, shaping and warping Moran and Gilmore's playing.
As Moran poetically put it in a statement, "I have always longed for an outside force to manipulate my piano song and drag the sound into a cistern filled with soft clay."
The line on jazz is that it's an expression of freedom. But when it comes to chips and filters and oscillators, it can always be a little more unbound.
Photo: L. Cohen/WireImage
10 Record Store Day Releases You Need This Year: Taylor Swift, Nas, Dolly Parton & More
Celebrate Record Store Day this April 22 by stocking up on new, exclusive LPs from Taylor Swift, Björk, The Rolling Stones and more at your local participating record store.
From Post Malone to Peppa Pig vinyls, record stores around the world are stocking up on limited exclusive releases for Record Store Day 2023.
Held annually every April since 2007, the event honors independently owned record stores and the unity of fans and artists. This year, many stores will globally welcome more than 300 limited, exclusive records ranging from rock to jazz to rap on April 22.
With former official ambassadors including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Jack White, Chuck D, and St. Vincent, Record Store Day celebrates music of all genres. And that's exactly the case with this year's lineup of special releases, spanning from Miles Davis to Beach House.
In honor of Record Store Day 2023, get excited about these 10 limited, exclusive releases dropping in your local participating store.
The 1975 — I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it: Live With The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Serving as the official Record Store Day UK Ambassadors this year, the 1975 take us back to 2016 with their second LP, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it — this time, along with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Available for the first time on double clear vinyl, this orchestral version of the British rock band's second studio album also features a version of their breakout hit, "Chocolate."
Miles Davis — TURNAROUND: Unreleased Rare Vinyl from On the Corner
Miles Davis' album On the Corner celebrated its 50th birthday last October, and its innovation takes yet another turn on Record Store Day. Titled Turnaround, this sky-blue vinyl features four cuts from the expanded 2007 album The Complete On The Corner Sessions, also offering appearances from Herbie Hancock, Dave Liebman and Bennie Maupin.
Björk — the fossora remixes
Fill your record collection with some flora and fauna — natural, eccentric scarlet and green patterns adorn each vinyl sleeve of Björk's exclusive the fossora remixes. The release features two dynamic songs: A1 Ovule featuring Shygirl (Sega Bodega remix) and A2 Atopos (sideproject remix).
Beach House — Become
Fourteen months after psychedelic pop duo Beach House unveiled their eighth studio album, Once Twice Melody, they continue the story with a new EP. Titled Become, the five-song project — which is available on crystal-clear vinyl on Record Store Day — features five formerly unreleased songs from their 2022 LP.
Nas — Made You Look: God's Son Live 2002
Just over 20 years ago, Nas gave a spectacular performance at Webster Hall in New York City, further solidifying his status as a legend of East Coast hip-hop. The spirited 20-song concert now appears on vinyl for the first time, with familiar artwork calling back to its original DVD release in 2003.
Dolly Parton — The Monument Singles Collection 1964-1968
More than six decades into her career, Dolly Parton joins the Record Store Day fun with a celebration of her early years. The country legend's remastered singles from the 1960s are hitting record store shelves, and the special first-time collection also features liner notes from two-time GRAMMY nominee Holly George-Warren.
The Rolling Stones — Beggars Banquet
As the Rolling Stones sang of "a swirling mass of grey, blue, black, and white" on "Salt Of The Earth," the rock band's upcoming limited vinyl for Beggars Banquet will be pressed with a swirl pattern of the same four colors in tribute. The group merges classic rock with their blues roots on Beggars Banquet, and the vinyl of their 1968 critically-acclaimed album features the original artwork and window display poster.
Taylor Swift — folklore: the long pond studio sessions
In September 2020, Taylor Swift's GRAMMY-winning album folklore was reimagined at New York's Long Pond Studio with a pair of the singer's closest collaborators, Aaron Dessner (The National) and Jack Antonoff (fun./Bleachers). And in November that year, fans got to witness those sessions in a Disney+ documentary. Now, more than two years later, the serene album's acoustic studio sessions are available on vinyl for the first time, including four sides and bonus track "the lakes."
'Ol Dirty Bastard — Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
ODB's memory lives on in the vinyl rerelease of his iconic 1995 debut album, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. Featuring the 2020 remasters of 15 tracks, this drop is the first posthumous release from ODB since 2011, but not the first time fans have heard his voice since then: SZA's SOS track "Forgiveless" concludes with a previously unreleased verse from the late rapper.
Donna Summer — A Hot Summer Night (40th Anniversary Edition)
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Donna Summer's momentous Hard For The Money Tour. This exclusive vinyl celebrates the Queen of Disco in all her glory, capturing her live concert at Costa Mesa's Pacific Amphitheatre from August 1983. The vinyl offers performances by special guests Musical Youth, her sisters Dara and Mary Ellen, and her eldest daughter Mimi.