Transforms Pain and Deliverance Into Art on Debut Album, Transcendence, Available April 9 via Motéma Music
Featuring JD Allen and Chris Sholar
Project Fuses Gee's Bend Quilters Southern Spirituals
with Eastern Indian Music and Electronic Elements,
Under the Umbrella of Acoustic Modern Jazz
With Special Guests Geri Allen, Falu, and Kelvin Sholar, Among Others
Transcendence marks the Motéma Music debut from Jaimeo Brown, a brilliant 34-year-old drummer, composer and conceptualist. With an intriguing amalgam of modern jazz, Southern black spiritual music, East Indian Carnatic music, blues, and hip-hop/electronica production tactics, Transcendence introduces Brown as a fearless renegade - an artist who seeks new pathways for personal musical expression through honoring a deep and broad lineage of musical and cultural traditions.
Brown and his cohorts - acclaimed tenor saxophonist JD Allen and GRAMMY®-nominated guitarist and soundscape producer, Chris Sholar - form the nucleus ensemble on this album. The extended lineup includes a rotating cast of notables: pianist Geri Allen; harmonium player Andrew Shantz; East Indian vocalist Falu; avant-jazz keyboardist Kelvin Sholar; Brown's parents, bassist Dartanyan Brown and pianist/flutist, Marcia Miget; Brown's sister, vocalist Marisha Rodriguez; and Brown's 2-year-old daughter, Selah Brown, who makes a charming vocal debut on the song "I Said."
Brown's philosophy of transforming pain and deliverance into art, and the resulting Transcendence, first took root in 2010 while living in New Jersey, experimentation with various music styles and readings of the Bible. During that time, Brown was listening intently to some music that was superimposed over an Eastern Indian tanpura. The music resonated so heavily with Brown that it sparked a creative fire.
"I started getting ideas about different ways in which superimposed music could be experimented with in an improvisational jazz context," Brown explains. As his concept deepened he recruited Sholar, with whom he had worked in hip-hop contexts, to bring a raw, blues-drenched guitar presence to the material, and to create layered cinematic soundscapes in both the live and recorded setting.
Perhaps the most transfixing element on this recording are the featured samples of the celebrated Gee's Bend Quilters, spiritual singers that hail from rural Alabama. Their haunting songs, sung while quilting, were documented in 1941 and 2002 (via Tinwood Media). Their quilts have been featured in museums around the country and their music has inspired compositions by a handful of musicians, most notably pianist Jason Moran's "Blue Blocks" (a commission by the Philadelphia Museum of Art).
"The primary purpose of black spiritual music is to build community and provide a medium for healing and worship. This is what I aim to do with my music as well," says Brown. While subconsciously searching for healing of his own as a young artist, he first encountered the Gee's Bend Quilters during his studies at Rutgers University. "I was investigating material for my thesis on 'How the Black Church Affected Jazz,'" he explains. "In the process of researching the history of the Black Church, which is not documented well, I was thirsty for any information and music that I could find. Through the process, the
Gee's Bend Quilters captivated my imagination."
However, Transcendence is hardly a simple product of scholarly erudition. Brown creates a new organic combination of actual samples of their voices within a live context. He debuted this concept on Geri Allen's celebrated holiday album A Child is Born, and returns to the concept now in collaboration with co-producer, Sholar (Kanye West, Jay-Z, Q-Tip, Mariah Carey) and JD Allen (Betty Carter, Lester Bowie, David Murray, Meshell Ndegeocello, Frank Foster ) and multi-GRAMMY®-Award winners Russ Titelman (producer of Eric Clapton, James Taylor, George Benson, Randy Newman) and Todd Whitlock (engineer of Wynton Marsalis, Chick Corea, Béla Fleck, Sting, Wayne Shorter). Transcendence unfolds as a multi-layered sonic odyssey where the Gee's Bend singers voices weave in and out, affording Brown's music a sensation that's as fresh and emotionally penetrating as it is intellectually and spiritually provocative.
Transcendence creates a musical montage of the highest and most synchronous order. By juxtaposing primordial elements of western blues, jazz, rock and electronica against a spiritually potent background of ancient East Indian and African American devotional sounds, this band stumbles into a musical universe of its very own. Though Transcendence is unmistakably on pulse with what is current in jazz exploration, it's freedom and depth of soul finds more connection with spirit pioneers like Max Roach, John Coltrane or Randy Weston, than it does to the market driven mix, sample and match trends of many of Brown's contemporaries.
The 12 songs on Transcendence bring new life to vocal samplings from the Gee's Bend singers. "Mean World" channels the inner-spirits of Coltrane's Eastern imports, while "Baby Miesh" relays the more purely Eastern-Indian influence, also heard on "Somebody's Knocking" and "I Know I've Been Changed." The album's vibe shifts on "Patience," a rock-based song, and moves forward to push deeper into more Western-influenced tunes like the sample heavy "Power of God," as well as "This World Ain't My Home," a track that concludes the album with a heavy hip-hop influence.