KEYON HARROLD; Foreverland (Concord Jazz)

Keyon Harrold is an acclaimed jazz trumpeter who hails from Ferguson, Missouri. The son of pastors, he decamped to New York to study jazz trumpet at The Mannes Conservatory and he was soon working with people like Common. Since then he’s gone on to collaborate with a who’s-who of stars: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Eminem, Maxwell, Mac Miller, and Snoop Dogg to name a few. Thus his work developed a singular sound, melding jazz, soul, R&B, hip-hop and pop. He released his first solo album, ‘Introducing Keyon Harrold’, in 2009, and then he won wide acclaim for his trumpet performances in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic ‘Miles Ahead’, which featured him on the GRAMMY-winning soundtrack for the film.  In 2017 Keyon released ‘The Mugician’ – an album which led Wynton Marsalis to describe the young horn man as “the future of the trumpet.” With such ringing acclaim, it would be a no-brainer not to investigate the player’s  new album, ‘Foreverland’ which is released on 19th January.

The album is a 10 tracker (all original songs/tunes) that explores themes of empowerment, positivity, love, loss, and vulnerability. Given what we’ve said you won’t be surprised to learn that the set features some stellar guests, including Mvula, Malaya, Common, Robert Glasper, PJ Morton, Jean Baylor, Chris Dave, and Greg Phillinganes.

The album opens with the scene setter – ‘Find Your Peace’ . This is an ensemble piece featuring Common, Robert Glasper, and Jean Baylor and it’s haunting soundscape typifies the Keyon Harrold signature sound – a sometimes gentle, often complex, building  cocktail of jazz, soul and hip hop. That’s the sound too on the focus, lengthy album title track which sees Laura Mvula at the mic delivering her verses around Harrold’s free-flowing horn work. Less complex but none  the less moving are  the Stevie Wonder-flavoured ‘Beautiful Day’ (vocals from PJ Morton) and the gentle builder that is ‘Don’t Lie’ (Malaya at the mic).

Instrumentals include ‘The Intellectual’ with Harrold dazzling on trumpet over a slow burning groove, and the hard-charging ‘Gotta Go (Outer Space).’ That one is essentially a trumpet solo over little more than a percussive track underlining the artist’s feelings on what his art involves: “What I can offer as a musician who plays an instrument with no words is an honest conveyance of emotion. Some of these notes, I play them because there’s not a better word.”  

Thus ‘Foreverland’ offers real variety but what brings the element of unity is the fact that all the players and guests share the leaders musical vision. Nearly every musician is a longtime friend, and Harrold accounts the record’s warmth and togetherness to this dynamic. “It’s like the ingredients of a great meal: you don’t need just any pepper; you need a certain kind. Every musician on this record is a rare and essential element.”  The lineup, by the way, includes Chris Dave and Marcus Gilmore on drums, Nir Felder, Randy Runyon and Justus West on guitar, Burniss “Boom” Travis and Brandon Owens on bass, Greg Phillinganes, BIGYUKI, Shedrick Mitchell and Jahari Stampley on piano/keyboards, and Jahi Sundance on turntables.

KEYON HARROLD’s  ‘Foreverland’ is released January 19th via Concord Jazz with vinyl to follow.

(BB) 4/5