Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 17, No.3, 2018

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
Becky Noble
Vijay Iyer
Lionel Loueke
Tia Fuller
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Emma Frank
Shai Maestro
Christine Jensen
Vincent Rehel
Kat Edmonson
Jaga Jazzist
Cline & Lage
Fred Hersch
Gregory Porter
Takuya Kuroda
Edmar Castaneda
Donny McCaslin
Kurt Rosenwinkel
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)

Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: KEYON HARROLD



If dues 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.

Prior 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.

For 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.

In interview, 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.

What 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 way.”

Mugician, 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.

In his 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.

“Her 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.

For jazz 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.

Harrold 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 next.

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.

Keyon 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.

Overheard 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 else."



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