The Revivalist family held down the dingy jazz haven Nublu last Thursday night to celebrate the launch of our website. Two plus weeks, and the underground has been buzzing, thanks in part to our extended family, The Beast, who shared the celebration with us for the release of The Freedom Suite.

Scene I: On the earlier side of the night, when folks were still one-by-one trickling in through the door, the real beast of the night revealed himself in the form of Maurice Brown, the vicious trumpeter backed by his extraordinary band. Maurice epitomizes a true junction of music at the perfect mid point between jazz and hip-hop: a musician with a genuine understanding of jazz tradition, with a ferocious energy true to the tradition of hip-hop. Similarly, his band consisting of Joe Blaxx (drummer), Chris Rob (keyboardist), and Ron Stone (bassist) were of that same school of thought.

Maurice, otherwise known as Mo’Betta has this superhuman energy about him that translates into strong staccato spurts of his trumpet blowing, sometimes visiting an unthinkable number of notes in the same breath leading you to believe that he might have broken some sort of world record. Mo’Betta has an uncanny way of circulating energy from any venue, space, room from its participants and regenerating it into his own performance. Early Thursday night, when the venue wasn’t quite packed yet, Mo was seen jumping so hard on the stage with a trumpet in the left hand, and a mic with the right, leading us to believe that he would have put the same amount of energy into the performance had there only been 2 people in the crowd. Mind you, he was also band-leading, acting as the master of ceremonies, and hyping up the crowd to get ready for The Cypher.

Blaxx was laying down some work halfway between some pretty hefty break beats and messing with unorthodox time signatures to take us a little out of the realm of our comfort. Chris Rob changed the definition of butterfingers, from that of an uncoordinated ball player, to that of a purveyor of all that is good and sultry with the talent of the fingers. That is Rob’s specialty indeed. There is no straight away nothing happening here: Mo’Betta and his crew provides an amalgamation of all music soul related into one interesting show. What’s to be expected is a constant flux of excitable sounds to leave you satiated. Ron Stone handled that bass like he was programming some sort of time travel machine, with grave urgency, and conviction flirting with a little bit of dancehall and a little bit of hip-hop. With Mo’Betta’s hyperactive direction, Ron Stone’s course and heavy notes were complimented by Rob’s graceful style and Blaxx’s ferocity. This is the type of performance that will go down in history as one of those rare recordings, and that the lucky few of us can say we actually witnessed live.

Scene II: Igmar Thomas and the Cypher, New York’s special gem, a brand of guaranteed quality, more than a band, has enhanced the sounds of some of hip-hop’s most notable front men both on the stage and in the studio. As it’s own floating entity, The Cypher is a collection of contemporary jazz innovators. These cats fundamentally play to show that jazz and hip-hop can’t be viewed or played in a vacuum. Their specialty is improvisation, and their skill set is dope music within an ever-expanding spectrum. Raydar Ellis, everyone’s favorite host and emcee, has a special gift of invoking group engagement. For cats who just rolled through to Nublu blindly seeking a Blue Note experience, they might not have expected to have to participate upon the beckoning of Ellis to “throw your hands up, and wave them side to side,” or to be asked to respond when called on, and helping him to dedicate the show to his late aunt, by yelling in unison “RIP Aunt Sandy.”

Trumpeter Igmar Thomas is the adhesive to the Cypher. Stylistically different than Mo’Better, Thomas’ amazing clarity, and his talent of perfect articulation produces a flawless quality of sound that is highly coveted. Marc Cary, the award winning and world-renowned keyboardist and guest Keyboardist for The Cypher, showed off his prowess more than exquisitely. Cary is another musician who has created his own interpretation of jazz, including personal projects that he has put out there incorporating tabla players, and hip-hop emcees. Drummer Justin Brown is another family member of The Revivalist. What is notable about Brown’s drumming is how pensive and well executed his playing is. His style is more ‘team player’ than braggadocios, but forget about it when he’s playing a solo. He can beat a kit to a near pulp. Burniss Earl Travis, the soft-spoken and coy bassist’s robust style lent itself to a deep and compelling funk groove holding the different musician’s elements together. These players are each revivalists in their own right, preserving jazz tradition while keeping real improvisation alive.

Scene III: The Beast rounded out the night with their brand of jazz and hip-hop.  In the tradition of Guru’s Jazzmatazz, The Beast use jazz chords like a sample, repeating the groove over a hip-hop beat and putting rhymes on top.  The party was the band’s New York release party for their latest project The Freedom Suite, an album that feature The Beast and also jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon and special guest appearances from Phonte from Little Brother, 9th Wonder, YahZarah and more.  The album works because it combines the hip-hop background of The Beast and the jazz vocals from Nnenna Freelon.  The sounds complement each other and bring out interesting aspects of both the jazz and hip-hop genre.  Freelon has impeccable control over her voice and is able to warp, contort and open up her vocals in different ways depending on the song and the band is right there with her.  Although Nnenna was not at the release party, her son and emcee of The Beast, Pierce Freelon, did his best to fill in where his Mom’s vocals were missing.  Pierce, a music professor and accomplished musician in his own right, was anxious and excited to perform at Nublu and seemed ready to give the audience every bit of his energy.  As the group played tracks from The Freedom Suite, Pierce bounced around stage, working to get the crowd involved and sharing his often deeply political lyrics.  The band was tight and clean and the overall feel of the group was straight-ahead and well rehearsed.  As the band winded down, and the evening turned into morning, the amazing night of music came to a close.  It really did seem like we are bringing good music to new ears.  Here’s to nothing.

Words By The Revivalist Crew


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