paid and bona fides are up for grabs, it doesn’t hurt to
be born in infamous Ferguson, Missouri, where unarmed Michael
Brown (black) was gunned down by officer Michael Wilson (white).
On top of which, as one of 16 siblings from a have-not family
of musicians, the odds are that whatever is your instrument of
choice, you’ll find a way to not only articulate what is
begging to be expressed from deep within, but to forge in the
fires of necessity those musical pathways that transcend what
the law of averages refuses.
to his emergence as one of the premier trumpeters, Winton Marsalis
cited Keyon Harrold as the “future of the trumpet.”
The good news for Montrealers is that the present catches up to
the future on June 28th, 10.30 pm at Salle Gesù, for the
occasion of the 2018
Montreal International Jazz Festival-- one of
the great music events on the planet.
unsurpassed ambience, eclectic vibes and a celebration of
diversity, for 12 days and nights the sun doesn’t set
in Canada’s premier city of lights, which is why the
event, for many, has become an annual rite of summer. Generated
out of its own momentum and spontaneity, the festival invariably
expands into a meeting of minds in pursuit of the universal
mind, with the transcendental language of music rising above
the ceaseless clash and confusion spawned by the spoken word
– of which there is arguably too much in Mugician,
Keyon Harrold’s latest album.
Harrold’s stated goal is to communicate on a metaphysical
level, to touch people’s soul, make them think. His music
making is not about his own personal suffering or private expression
but reaching out to the other through the language of music. He
feels his purpose is to shed light, to vanquish the many darknesses
that man leaves in the wake of his incontinent lust and avarice.
While schooled in jazz, he doesn’t consider himself strictly
a jazz musician, especially in light of the many influences jazz
(for better or worse) has absorbed during the past 25 years.
initially attracts the listener to the Harrold interval is that
he manages to sound contemporary while appealing to ears for whom
recognizable melody is a non-negotiable. No surprise that he counts
Miles Davis as a major influence, and that he was chosen to play
all the trumpet parts in the 2015 film Miles
Ahead, starring Don Cheadle. As musician,
composer and arranger, he has collaborated with a long list of
celebrated musicians, and has written out the instrumentation
for one of the great voices (of the people) of our time, Gregory
Porter. Harrold doesn’t need to be taken “to the alley
released in 2017, marks a radical departure from his formal schooling
and straight ahead approach to jazz. Without apology or pretension,
Mugician incorporates a potpourri of influences, including
hip-hop, the spoken word (rapping), political and social commentary,
orchestral arrangements, groove, and a whining Bilal, who is apparently
chasing the record for most appearances on everyone else's album.
invention and hands-on-the-controls in both the studio and live,
Harrold has been compared to Robert Glasper, who guest-performs
on title track -- a reggae inflected original that features Harrold
soloing in exquisite harmony with the second horn and later, the
vagrant voice of Jermaine Holmes.
Beauty Through My Eyes” features a moody groove that buoys
the voice and angry lyrics sung by Pharoahe Monche while the unassuming
solo – in the spirit of A Silent Way – is
more impressionistic than directional as a measured response to
the composition’s flavours and colours. Harrold is a musician
who has something to say and for whom any inkling of virtuosity
is a non-starter.
purists, his best soloing is on “MB Lament” where
the full force of Harrold’s creative powers come to the
fore along with the discipline and restraint that distinguish
him from lesser players. He makes every note sing and that includes
the song between the notes.
is at the point of his career where he is confident in his concepts
and has no compunction in incorporating sounds and ideas from
both inside and outside the world of jazz. His critics will accuse
him of playing with a Pandora’s box of influences like a
kid who finds himself in a toy factory and wants to play with
them all because he doesn’t know what he wants. Mugician
is the kind of album where you can love one track and nix the
I’m convinced that in respect to a career that is just taking
off, his mixing of genres represents a transitional phase, and
at some future point Harrold’s trumpet will once again play
a more defining role (a la “Bubba Rides Again”) in
the unfolding of his multi-faceted relationship with his roots
and the world as it turns, and, thanks to his exceptional ability,
the world he is creating and critiquing – not unlike Mr.
Davis for whom staying pat was never in the cards.
Harrold has a lot going for him; he is already near the top of
his game and he’s going to get better. He’s a natural
composer, and in a genre where playing (improvising) takes precedent
over the blood-sweat-and-fears of composition, Harrold is bridging
the gap and growing a considerable fan base on both sides of the
Atlantic -- and the Arctic circle.
in his igloo under a midnight sun, Atanarjuat, Inuit seal hunter
par excellence, said: "When I'm chewing the fat,
I want to hear Harrold in my head. He seals the deal like no one