Lastly a Competition The place Music Was All That Mattered

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Isa Nakazawa

Isa Nakazawa is an Oakland-based author, organizer, educator, and radio…

The inaugural Blue Word Jazz Competition was co-hosted by Robert Glasper and Dave Chappelle and featured performances from Maxwell, Snoop Dogg, Madlib, Chaka Khan, and extra. Photograph Credit score: Ashleigh Reddy for Okayplayer

Whereas attending the Inaugural Blue Word Jazz Competition, we spoke to standout artists on the invoice and their relationship with music.

It’s simple to miss the apparent however typically the reality is hiding in plain sight. As recognizable as Blue Word Information is worldwide, not many individuals know what a “blue observe” is within the context of the music itself. With out getting misplaced within the weeds of music idea, tutorial Lindsey Valich defines blue notes as, “notes ‘between the cracks’ of standard pitches.’” Foundational to each blues and jazz, blue notes stretch outdoors of the size for expressive impact — they subvert expectations in pursuit of an sincere sound. And this search, this insistence upon authenticity, is among the connective threads of the artists who carried out final weekend in Napa Valley on the inaugural Blue Word Jazz Competition, which was co-hosted by Robert Glasper and Dave Chappelle.

Let’s be clear that each one festivals — even those with the line-up of a lifetime — run on a sure formulation to maximise revenue. A bottle of water will run you $8 and VIP tickets will price double, even when the distinction between the tiers is minimal. Festivals are their very own microcosms for America, fraught with the identical energy struggles, hierarchies and lengthy, inefficient strains for meals. I’m not fascinated about justifying the inaccessible value factors or portray a glamorous image of a way more nuanced actuality. I’m, nonetheless, within the music and the sensible and complex individuals who make it. 

Whereas on the Blue Word Jazz Competition this previous weekend, we sat down with three standout artists on the invoice: Jahi Sundance, Alex Isley, and Amber Navran to catch up, study their relationship to jazz, and get a way of their first-hand experiences performing and attending the competition. 

Jahi Sundance

” What I’m actually making an attempt to do with DJing is be like a file, be like a circle across the complete band,” Jahi Sundance stated. Photograph Credit score: Ashleigh Reddy for Okayplayer

Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and DJ Jahi Sundance and I sat for an interview on a inexperienced couch within the press lounge, discovering momentary refuge from the unbearable afternoon Napa warmth. Because the son of Oliver Lake, a famend jazz saxophonist, flutist, composer, poet, and visible artist, Jahi comes from a lineage of jazz that has knowledgeable and formed his distinctive strategy to DJing.

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“Being at this Blue Word Jazz Competition and with the ability to carry out at Blue Word in New York with Rob and Blue Word in China has been superb. And a part of that legacy is with the ability to convey a unique strategy to DJing. An strategy that’s actually impressed by jazz. That’s impressed by becoming into the music in an improvisational means that’s not predictable and is extra emotionally conscious of the music that’s taking place within the second, inside the confines of the tune, however nonetheless expressive and never essentially simply executing components. There’s a lane that I’ve carved out that has to do with a stage of musicianship that’s impressed by jazz. And because of this, the musicians that I play with have allowed me to try this on their information.

What I’m actually making an attempt to do with DJing is be like a file, be like a circle across the complete band. So I’m making an attempt to have an effect on and reply to everyone’s enjoying in your complete band in refined methods, not suddenly, however nonetheless encircling the entire band. I’m making an attempt to be a circle round everyone, irrespective of which form they could be in, whether or not they’re a triangle or sq. or a circle themselves. I’m at all times making an attempt to be a circle.”

Jahi Sundance has an album out referred to as Love Isn’t Sufficient with Robert Glasper, Meshell Ndegeocello, Chris Dave and extra. Look out for his subsequent challenge popping out within the Fall.

Alex Isley

“Music completely heals. It undoubtedly has therapeutic properties. I’ve seen, even scientifically, it has been confirmed,” Alex Isley stated. Photograph Credit score: Ashleigh Reddy for Okayplayer

Alex Isley is rooted in a deep sense of household pleasure. Whereas she’s most recognized for being the daughter of Ernie Isley of the prolific Isley Brothers, her familial and musical influences lengthen even additional again. 

One factor is for sure, soul and musical skill are Alex’s birthright and she or he has the tone and good pitch to show it. In his autobiography Deal with It Light, Sidney Bechet describes music as, “a sense inside [himself], a type of reminiscence that wishes to sing itself.” I’ve at all times been interested in this unusual dance between musicianship and reminiscence, between technical ability and what Quincy Jones calls, “leaving house for God to stroll by the room.” 

This notion that music can dictate what it desires to say brings me to a associated inquiry concerning the therapeutic properties of sound. Can music heal? 

Towards the backdrop of a heritage oak tree, Alex stands poised in a cerulean pleated two-piece set, embodying the class and quiet energy of somebody at peace and of their function. 

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“My maternal grandfather dabbled in jazz when he was youthful. He was a dentist for a few years as a result of his mother and father wished him to choose a sensible job, however he had a ardour for jazz drums. He was actually the start of my jazz training. I realized who Oscar Peterson and Billie Vacation had been and I got here throughout Ella and Duke ultimately however I didn’t actually get into jazz till highschool, after I heard the vocal jazz group singing “Lush Life.” I didn’t know what it was, however I used to be like, ‘no matter that is, I wish to sing it!’ And that was the start. I sang jazz all by highschool after which ended up learning it in school at UCLA. And so, at this level, it’s such part of every part I do, how I carry out on stage, how I interpret a track, how I write a track, how I work together with gamers on stage. It’s impacted every part and it’s such an enormous a part of my artistry.

Music completely heals. It undoubtedly has therapeutic properties. I’ve seen, even scientifically, it has been confirmed. So music is completely therapeutic. It doesn’t matter the language or the instrument. If it strikes a chord, then that’s simply the connection – that’s the center connection. And so I believe that’s one thing actually particular as a result of music actually has no boundaries to me.

Self care actually started for me much more so as soon as I turned a mother. And I believe I had at all times considered parenthood as so sacrificial and also you’re simply giving up on your self. And I simply thought I used to be simply at all times going to be simply operating behind my toddler. However I realized sarcastically, that an important factor about parenthood is taking good care of your self so that you simply’re ready to care for your little one, your kids, how you must. And so motherhood was the start of being much more purposeful in direction of my me-time and methods I can simply pour into myself and higher myself.”

Alex Isley has an album out with Jack Dine referred to as “Marigold” that includes Robert Glasper on “Nonetheless Marvel”. She will likely be touring a metropolis close to you this month by September! Keep linked to her on all social platforms

Amber Navran

“After we first began Moonchild, I had simply began singing. So I really feel just like the final ten years have been me actually discovering my voice and feeling snug in my voice and my physique,” Amber Navran stated. Photograph Credit score: Ashleigh Reddy for Okayplayer

Artists usually tend to be requested questions on accountability than politicians. Absolutely, this says one thing about how little politicians are held accountable or possibly it reveals extra about who’s asking the questions. However maybe, extra importantly, it says one thing about how highly effective artists are and the way we glance to them for cues on how you can reply, reimagine and keep in mind. 

LA based mostly singer, producer, and woodwind participant, Amber Navran radiates a heat and infectious joie de vivre each on-and-off stage. Amber kicked off the competition on Friday with pianist and producer Kiefer, the legendary Chris Dave on drums and Pera Krstajic on bass on the “Blue Word Napa Stage” proper on the entrance of the Charles Krug Vineyard. Enjoying a mixture of acquainted hits, unreleased music and even a canopy of Mario’s “You Ought to Let Me Love You” and Beyonce’s “Me, Myself & I,” Amber’s set embodied her vary, ability and playful spirit. 

Although Amber carried out on Friday, she stayed by Sunday to benefit from the multi-day competition expertise, meet up with mates and join with different artists.

Not each artist is born right into a musical household or finds and develops their ardour for music early on in life. And whereas Amber joined the college band at a younger age and went on to pursue jazz saxophone, she didn’t begin singing till a lot later in her profession. Amber shares hard-earned knowledge about being affected person on the lengthy, non-linear journey of honing one’s voice. 

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“I undoubtedly assume ‘accountability’ is the suitable phrase for white musicians. I believe all white individuals have a accountability to fight white supremacy in no matter house they exist in. And I really feel very conscious of that accountability being in Black music. I actually wish to simply convey no matter I can to the desk respectfully and in a means that feels good and useful and never in the way in which. I believe it’s one thing that we must always all be doing. And I do see lots of people doing it, which makes me comfortable. However sure, it’s undoubtedly a accountability that all of us have.

I really feel like I’ve grown a lot in so some ways. After we first began Moonchild, I had simply began singing. So I really feel just like the final ten years have been me actually discovering my voice and feeling snug in my voice and my physique — particularly prior to now few years, particularly with Starfruit. For me personally, I do know the place my voice sits wherever that I wish to go, which took a very long time. I believe it takes everybody a very long time to get there. However I didn’t develop up singing, so I spent lots of time early on feeling actually self-conscious about studying whereas creating. However wanting again, I actually really feel like on the finish of the day, it’s concerning the songs and the lyrics and the texture of the track and the emotion that the track and the monitor is bringing. I really feel like coming from the jazz world, particularly enjoying saxophone, the simplest horn to play, , like all saxophone gamers have moments of their solos the place they’re ripping as a result of they’ll and it’s actually killing and spectacular and superb. However coming as a vocalist with all of that background, I spent a very long time feeling self acutely aware about it. And actually, our profession has taught me that that’s under no circumstances what it’s about. It’s good when it’s there and figuring out your instrument is necessary. However yeah, I really feel like now I’ve extra confidence as a result of I do know myself higher and my instrument higher. It’s simple to really feel like you need to be superb at each single factor you do. And now I really feel like I simply wish to come and be myself and make melodies and simply be sincere within the music and that’s the very best I can do. And that’s okay with me.”

MOONCHILD has an album out referred to as “Starfruit”. Amber is presently engaged on an album with Jacob Mann and Phil Beaudreau that may hopefully come out subsequent yr below the title Cat Pack. She can also be engaged on an album with Kiefer alongside a number of different thrilling collaborations. Keep linked to her on all social platforms

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Isa Nakazawa is an Oakland-based author, organizer, educator, and radio host. Irrespective of the medium, Isa leads along with her curiosity, consideration, and basic perception within the interconnected nature of the liberation of all individuals. Shake the syntax, shake the world.

Ashleigh Reddy is a photographer and content material creator.



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